As history warned, a matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder invariably results in a few scuffles, and Thursday’s edition featured Jusuf Nurkic, Russell Westbrook, and Paul George. The ultimate result: Nurkic’s ejection, which altered the outcome of the fourth quarter and overtime.
Round 1: Nurkic vs. Westbrook
Tonight’s saga began when Nurkic and Westbrook lagged behind a play in the second quarter. Westbrook took exception to the placement of Nurkic’s foot and responded with a body-block.
Beef, it's what's for dinner #ripcity pic.twitter.com/TOQ4YpIWih— NBC Sports Northwest (@NBCSNorthwest) March 8, 2019
The referees assessed a Flagrant 1 on Westbrook for the shove and a technical on Nurkic for the trip.
Round 2: Nurkic vs. George’s Elbow
George, who was driving to the hoop, whacked his right elbow into Nurkic’s jaw. But since no foul was called, there was no opportunity for the referees to review the play afterward.
Nurkic took a Paul George elbow right to the chin pic.twitter.com/wsnkj0AIDm— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) March 8, 2019
Round 3: Nurkic vs. George’s Head
Shortly after the George elbow, in the dying moments of regulation, the Blazers were attempted tie the game. Nurkic popped up from a hard foul and Paul George hurled a few words at the big man. Here’s the result:
Playoff intensity at the Rose Garden— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 8, 2019
Nurkic ejected with 2nd technical after headbutt, PG also charged with technical pic.twitter.com/w9RjRh5aGE
Both players earned offsetting technical fouls, so Nurkic was ejected.
Per NBA rules, Oklahoma City decided who replaced Nurkic to shoot his two free throws. Billy Donovan selected recently-acquired Blazer Skal Labissiere, who missed both. But a fortunate foul call on Markieff Morris in a scramble for the rebound put Aminu at the line. Aminu sunk both and sent the game to overtime.
Portland felt Nurkic’s absence in overtime as well. The Thunder attacked Enes Kanter and the paint to secure the season-series sweep.
From the scuffles to the intensity of the gameplay, this matchup would make for an extremely entertaining playoff series.
Epilogue: The Explanations
After tonight’s game, the Officials made a statement to pool reporter Kevin Pelton.
Transcript: NBA Referee Ed Malloy Comments to Pool Reporter after Thunder – Trail Blazers Game. pic.twitter.com/H5umuI92M6— NBA Official (@NBAOfficial) March 8, 2019