In what will surely be remembered as the best basketball game to happen on April 3, 2021 (By the way, I wonder what happened in Gonzaga-UCLA) the Portland Trail Blazers blew out the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-85. CJ McCollum was the leading scorer for Portland with 20 points on the night while Kenrich Williams led OKC with 18 points off the bench.
You can find Dave Deckard’s rundown of the quarter-by-quarter action in our Instant Recap. Here are five observations from tonight’s action.
This was an honest to goodness blowout. There was never a doubt that the Blazers would win, and there never should’ve been. A Thunder team that has no Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Al Horford? Yeah, this probably wasn’t going to go well for OKC.
Still, it’s good for the Blazers to just bury an opponent regardless of skill level. Remember, just last week Portland played a game where the Orlando Magic fielded what was technically an NBA team, but barely. It was much closer than it should’ve been. Portland needs to put teams away like this consistently, and it was a treat to see them do so tonight.
Enes Kanter Effective Off the Bench
It’s not like anything else was expected, but Enes Kanter has been pretty darn good off the bench since Jusuf Nurkic’s return. Kanter is making life miserable for second units with his relentless pursuit of rebounds, generating extra possessions. He had 12 points and 17 boards tonight. I have a feeling he’ll have a few more off-the-bench double-doubles this season.
Far From NORM-al
Norman Powell has been very good for the Blazers since joining the club at the NBA Trade Deadline. He’s an effective offensive player and a solid defender as well. He might not have a game where he finishes +54 in plus-minus like former Blazer Gary Trent Jr. just did for the Toronto Raptors, but we’ve seen how Powell can be effective.
Tonight Terry Stotts enabled Powell to create. I’d like to see more of that. Powell knows how to get a shot off. Why not put the ball in his hands more when Damian Lillard or McCollum are on the bench? Why not let Lillard run amok off the ball while Powell takes control? Stormin’ Norman isn’t much of a passer, but I don’t see how letting Lillard go off the ball occasionally could be a bad thing. The Blazers could get more creative with how they use Powell.
Good Defense or Bad Offense?
The Blazers technically had a good defensive game. The Thunder committed 22 turnovers, a season high for a Blazers opponent this year. They shot below 40% from the field, and made under 30% of their threes. They just couldn’t create anything for themselves thanks to the Blazers putting the clamps on.
I don’t see this game as a good barometer of Portland’s defense, though. This Thunder team didn’t field even an average shot creator. Their best might’ve been rookie Theo Maledon, and he went 1-for-12. This was a good defensive game form Portland, but it’s not enough to reassess them.
Moses Brown, Anyone?
One final thought, because there is only so much to take away from a game like this: it was fun to see Moses Brown tonight! It’s been great seeing him do well with the Thunder, getting a long-term contract, even if that contract has more loopholes than one can count. His good play means it’s worth at least a couple minutes of your time to think about whether or not he would’ve been worth keeping Brown around Portland.
Okay, maybe not to actually play. He was legitimately awful anytime he stepped onto the court last year for the Blazers. But his case is one that makes me think about how awesome it would be if Portland had a direct G-League affiliate to develop guys like Brown. He worked hard to develop his body and utilize it in a way where he can at least put up big numbers, especially in the G-League. I still don’t think he’s particularly good, but I’m also happy that he has a shot at an NBA career now. His trajectory solidifies Portland’s need of a G-League team.
Next up, the Blazers will head south to Los Angeles for their matchup against the Clippers. They’ll play on Tuesday at 7 p.m. PT.