The Portland Trail Blazers rode the hot hand of C.J. McCollum (and got a little help from Carmelo Anthony) to survive the Oklahoma City Thunder and pick up an ultra-important 108-105 win on the road against its next closest opponent in the unbelievably crowded Western Conference standings. With the win, Portland swept the series from Oklahoma City.
The Blazers now stand at 45-28 - the most wins in the post-LaMarcus Aldridge era - and sit two full games ahead of the Thunder (44-31) in the battle for the third seed and homecourt advantage in the playoffs.
Portland wavered at times in the contest but came alive in the clutch as McCollum buried the Thunder with a dizzying array of floaters and mid-range mischief. At several junctures it appeared like Oklahoma City would seize game-sealing momentum only from McCollum to run straight back at them with another dagger. It was like watching a feature length episode of C.J.’s Victim’s Unit.
Anthony will probably be kicking himself a bit after turning the ball over and then bricking the potentially game tying three-pointer on the Thunder’s final two possessions, respectively, but this is one the Blazers won’t feel sorry about.
The Blazers were led by a red-hot McCollum (34 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and a less-so Damian Lillard (24 points 7 reobunds, 5 assists, 3 steals).
The Thunder were led by Russell Westbrook (23 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists) and Steven Adams (18 points, 10 rebounds).
In need of backup. When starters faced the starters tonight, the Blazers were mostly successful. When the time came for the second unit to take over, they were not. Portland was able to build considerable leads during both the 1st and 3rd quarters - one of those reaching 18 points - but whenever the bench was leaned on to preserve the advantage it crumbled. The five man rotation of Evan Turner, Shabazz Napier, Ed Davis, Zach Collins and Pat Connaughton combined for only 8 points in 66 total minutes of action, compared to 36 points from their Thunder counterparts.
It’s a frustrating trend, and the Blazers continue to get strong play from the ancillary parts of its starting lineup with Maurice Harkless (16 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks) and Jusuf Nurkic (17 points, 12 rebounds 2 blocks, 2 steals).
Send this to Shaq. Somebody needs to tell Westbrook that you need to have the ball and be in bounds to call a timeout...
And the go-ahead bucket from C.J.
Have yourself a 4th quarter, CJ McCollum pic.twitter.com/ocqhax6Ggf— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) March 26, 2018
The road trip of suddenly more relevant playoff implications continues as the Blazers will head to New Orleans to face the Pelicans Tuesday night at 5 p.m.