After spending the last two weeks on the road, the Portland Trail Blazers looked excited to play in front of their home fans on Wednesday night—thrashing the Oklahoma City Thunder by a final score of 136-119 for their second consecutive victory. They’ve now won back-to-back games for just the second time this season.
The Blazers jumped out to an early lead and didn’t look back, never trailing in the game. All five starters scored in double-figures, led by 27 points from Damian Lillard. Abdel Nader led the Thunder with 23 of his own off the bench.
The Blazers had a great start out of the gate, hitting their first ten shots and jumping out to an early double-digit lead. Hassan Whiteside was particularly effective—scoring on the receiving end of the pick-and-roll, knocking down a couple of mid-range jumpers and gobbling up rebounds on the defensive end of the court. The big man had 14 points in the frame, going 6-7 from the field.
Portland also caught fire from three-point land, going 6-9 from beyond the arc—including a 3-3 showing from Rodney Hood—to take a 42-26 lead into the break, setting a season-high for points in an opening quarter in the process.
After the early fireworks, the Blazers offense cooled in the second, yet the Thunder were unable to take advantage. Neither team was able to find much of a rhythm, and Portland’s double-digit lead never evaporated. The Blazers led 63-50 at halftime. Oklahoma City did not have a player score in double-figures in the first half, while the Blazers had three.
The Thunder started to chip away at the lead early in the second half, pulling within single-digits for the first time since the first few minutes of the game. The Blazers recovered, however, and quickly and blew the lead wide open. Lillard and CJ McCollum led the charge offensively, while Oklahoma City had a couple of prolonged stretches without a field goal and did much of their damage at the free-throw line—aided by a few questionable calls. The Blazers led 104-77 heading to the game’s final stanza.
The Blazers’ lead ballooned to as many as 35 points in the final quarter, and they were able to coast comfortable to the finish. The starters were able to rest for much of the period, with Carmelo Anthony being serenaded by fans chanting his name as he exited the floor in his home debut. Youngsters Moses Brown and Jaylen Hoard were able to see the court for the second consecutive game, playing the final six minutes of the contest.
Home Court Advantage
Playing just their sixth home game this season, it was clear that the Blazers fed off the energy of the crowd—playing with great hustle and energy, particularly in the first quarter. It is often said that the first game back after an extended road trip feels like another road game, but that couldn’t have been further from the case on Wednesday night. The team plays the majority of it’s upcoming slate at the friendly confines of Moda Center, which bodes well for them going forward.
As was the case on Monday night, the Blazers were able to get everyone involved offensively, making it impossible for the Thunder to hone in on any one player defensively. Aside from Lillard’s 27, Whiteside finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while McCollum chipped in 22 and Anthony 19. Hood added 14 on just six shot attempts. Anfernee Simons was the only player able to get much going off the bench, scoring 14 of his own, but on a night when all of the starters were so locked in, it was more than enough.
Sharing Is Caring
The Blazers were able to get so many players involved because of their excellent ball movement. They finished with 23 assists to just nine turnovers. For the team to succeed going forward, they’re going to need significant contributions from players outside of Lillard and McCollum. Between guys getting healthy and the addition of Anthony, they now appear to have enough firepower that they can actually take advantage of moving the rock around—with four legitimate scoring threats in the starting lineup (and the occasional burst from Whiteside). This takes a great deal of pressure off of the back-court, and keeps the defense honest.
The Blazers host the Chicago Bulls on Friday night, in the two teams’ second match-up in the last five days.