The Portland Trail Blazers barely held on to an early 19-point lead against the Oklahoma City Thunder to come away with a 1-0 series lead. Damian Lillard’s fourth quarter shooting, Enes Kanter’s offensive rebounding, and Moe Harkless’ first quarter defense on Paul George factored into the victory.
Here’s a look at one stat each Portland starter should record to improve the team’s chances of winning the series.
Damian Lillard: 30 points
In the Game 1 victory, Lillard barely reached this mark thanks to 14 points in the fourth quarter. Some of Portland’s most complete games have resulted from Lillard’s playmaking and his teammates making shots, but OKC’s defense doesn’t commit to stopping the All-NBA guard as intensely as other teams do; he averaged 34.8 points against them in the regular season. He can – and did – break down Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams on the pick and roll using his speed and crafty finishing, which will provide him more space to shoot threes as well.
CJ McCollum: 44% shooting from the field
McCollum shot 45.9% from the field on the season, but against the Thunder, he shot 35.4%. Terrance Ferguson, a lengthy, defensive-minded guard, primarily defended McCollum in those four matchups and made every shot difficult. Ferguson picked up early foul trouble in Game 1 and McCollum capitalized by knocking down several three-pointers. He ultimately finished the game 9-24 from the field (37.5%) – most of his misses came in the midrange or at the rim.
Moe Harkless: 2 blocks and no foul trouble
Harkless blocked George three times in the first quarter before picking up his second foul and resting for much of the first half. In all four regular season games against OKC, he recorded four total blocks. However, his defensive aggressiveness led to foul trouble and only 22 minutes of playing time. Additionally, his defensive intensity eased in the second half to avoid fouling more, allowing George to get better looks (which he still missed but won’t in the future).
Al-Farouq Aminu: 1 three-pointer on fewer than 4 attempts
Several Portland players shot well from outside in Game 1, but Aminu missed his only three-point attempt in 35 minutes. As usual, he positively impacted the game on defense and with his rebounding, but if Lillard attacks the rim more on the pick and roll going forward, OKC’s defense will collapse and sacrifice the perimeter to Aminu like the New Orleans Pelicans did. Aminu can punish the Thunder by knocking down these open looks. Simultaneously, he shouldn’t force any threes as he shot a mediocre 34.3% from deep on the season.
Enes Kanter: 13 rebounds (at least 3 offensive)
Once he assumed the starting spot, Kanter averaged 11.4 rebounds in nearly 30 minutes, a similar rate to Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic elevated his rebounding against OKC to record 13 per game in the four matchups, so Kanter must also do so. The Thunder rely on Adams to secure second chances and compensate for the team’s below-average shooting, but Kanter’s defensive rebounding can prevent those extra looks. He dominated the glass in Game 1 by pulling down 18 rebounds (seven offensive) compared to Adams’ nine, a great start to the series.