Sunday Night’s match-up between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Oklahoma City Thunder had everything a great playoff game should have: drama, intensity, big names, unexpected moments, a little brouhaha — and the game was on the line until the last shot. The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti wants more. Preferably seven games in May more.
Blazer fans would probably jump for joy and thank the basketball gods for a first round series with the Thunder. The Blazers have swept the series 4-0 this year, and have won seven out of the last eight going back to last year. Even though current standings make a series between Portland and Oklahoma City seem unlikely, the log-jam between the number three through ten teams in the West means that current positions are far from locked in. A Blazer Thunder series is not out of the question.
Uggetti highlighted Jusuf Nurkic’s excellent night:
The Blazers with a serviceable Nurkic are a team worth believing in. But with an engaged Nurkic, they’re a team worth fearing.
Nurkic finished the game with 17 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Only one of Jusuf’s shots was outside of the paint. This is the Nurkic Blazer fans have waited for this year, and his recent consistency and play bodes well for the Blazers in the playoff.
Looking at the Thunder, coach Billy Donovan needs to figure out how to use (or not use) Carmelo Anthony.
In the final five minutes of the game, Melo put on a bizarro clinic on how to make your team lose a close game. He missed four 3s, was torched on defense multiple times, threw a bad pass that resulted in a turnover, and was outworked to a rebound by Jusuf Nurkic. It was sad to watch.
As Uggetti points out, the fact that the Thunder were down 18 but still were able to make the game a nail-biter is evidence that the Thunder have the talent to be a really good team. As has been the case all year though, the Thunder haven’t been able to put all of the pieces together on a consistent basis. If they can do it in the playoffs, look out.