Lillard Time returned to Portland tonight. With Oklakhoma City putting the clamps down defensively in the second half, Damian Lilard exploded in the fourth quarter to lead the Blazers to victory 115-110.
The Blazers were led by Lillard with 31 points and 9 assists and CJ McMcollum with 22 points.
After digging themselves an early grave against the Warriors on Friday night, the Blazers came out with a renewed sense of purpose on defense. Portland held the Thunder under 50% field goal shooting, a positive direction after the last few games. The bad news was that Portland wasn't much better from the field, unless they were launching from beyond the arc. Portland shot 5/9 from three but just 9/24 (37%) overall. However, it was enough to keep things close. Al-Farouq Aminu led the quarter for Portland with 5 points and some nice early defensive pressure on Kevin Durant. There was a noticeable difference in energy tonight to start the game, a welcoming sign after a disheartening first three games of this homestand.
End of First: Portland 26, Oklahoma City 27
With the Thunder's second unit in to start the period, the Blazers were able to take advantage and build a small lead, but the Blazers' own struggles to score kept Portland from building what could have been a bigger advantage. Russell Westbrook checked back in with 8 minutes to go, but had trouble throwing a rock into the ocean tonight (1/9 FG for the half), though he was dishing the ball out just fine with 10 assists for the half. Ed Davis looked like the guy we signed up for tonight; getting to loose balls, second chance points, hitting the boards, and playing some solid interior defense. With Westbrook struggling and Portland continuing to hit from beyond the arc, Portland pushed the lead to seven late. More importantly, they made more hustle plays than the Thunder. Portand led in rebounds, assists and the hacking of the other opponent while committing fewer turnovers than the Thunder, not to mention Portand's bench outscored Oklahoma City's second unit 25-10. Aminu and Davis came to play tonight, leading the charge for the Blazers with 12 points for Aminu and 10 for Davis entering the second half.
Halftime: Portland 52, Oklahoma City 46
Portland kept the pressure and the energy going, pushing the lead to 10 at the seven minute mark. With the bench leading the way in the first half, the starters, led my Lillard, continued the surge in the third. Unfortunately, just as soon as the Blazers got up by double digits the Thunder made their own push. Durant made like Godzilla and awoke from his slumber while Westbrook crashed to the floor any time the refs were looking to make a small living at the free throw line. As good teams do, the Thunder locked down defensively, clamping down and hounding Portland relentlessly for a 27-9 run, turning a 10-point deficit into a five point lead. Portland ended the period with a shot of energy when McCollum stole the ball and sank a three at the horn. Despite the Thunder's surge, Portland was still in striking distance.
End of Third: Portland 80, Oklahoma City 85
The Thunder kept threatening to put this one away, but much to Portland's credit, they kept hanging around. With just under three to go, Portand found themselves down only seven as the Thunder and Blazers traded baskets most of the quarter. Then...it was Lillard Time. Lillard nailed two big threes and Allen Crabbe hit another moments later to cut the lead to one, 108-107 with 2:00 to go. Lillard was relentless again as he tied the game at 110 with another three and soon hit another to lift Portland ahead 113-110. Mason Plumlee, despite Lillard's heroics, may have had the play of the game with a key defensive block. Lillard then went to the line to ice the game with free throws in the final second. It was an amazing few minutes for Lillard and the Blazers as they snapped a three game losing streak.
The Blazers finish their five game homestand Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.
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