Put the brooms away. The Portland Trail Blazers competed but weren’t able to overpower a desperate Oklahoma City Thunder squad, falling 120-108 on the road in Game 3.
The Blazers lead the series 2-1.
In the early going, the game looked to have all the makings for yet another defensive showdown, but Oklahoma City found its rhythm late in the second quarter, finishing the half on a 10-1 run and held serve from then on.
Damian Lillard’s 25-point explosion in the third quarter - after just four in the first half - kept Portland within striking distance down the stretch, but defensive stops were hard to come by and every Blazer run was sent right back at their collective face.
CJ McCollum drilled a three early in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 89 apiece, but Portland would never regain the lead.
With newfound intensity and urgency, the Thunder forced forced 18 turnovers and drew 33 fouls, out-hustling the Blazers for this first time this series. Portland fans will probably feel a bit salty with the frequency of whistles, as there were many, but credit to the Thunder for forcing the issue and putting the officials on the spot. Oklahoma City also rebounded a dreadful three-point shooting performance through Games 1 and 2 by tickling the twine to a tune of 15-29 from deep. That kind of outside shooting might not be sustainable, but it’s something the Blazers will have to address moving forward. That needs to be a category Portland dominates, or at the least, wins.
But with the expectation that the Thunder’s stars would be ones stepping up with Herculean performances, it was actually the supporting cast that picked up most of the slack. Jerami Grant went from obscurity to a near-perfect 6-7 from the field, including 4-5 from range for 18 points, while Dennis Schroder was effective off the bench with 17 points of his own. Russell Westbrook had nowhere else to go but up, and responded with an almost necessary 33 points, but even though Paul George got to the line 17 times, he held to only 3-16 shooting from the field for a relatively ho-hum 22 points. You’ll live with that. Offensively, the Blazers played as well as they have so far this series, Oklahoma City was just that much better.
By the looks of it, we’re just getting started.
Game 4 is set for this Easter Sunday at 6:30 p.m.