The Portland Trail Blazers looked worn out and defeated on Monday night, falling on the road to the tanking Oklahoma City Thunder 98-81. CJ McCollum led the way for Portland with 21 points and Norman Powell added 18 points.
As the trend has been of late, the Blazers went inside to Jusuf Nurkic early and let the Bosnian bruiser set the tone for the offense. His counterpart, Derrick Favors, is no shrimp at 6’9” and 265 pounds, but Nurkic had little trouble putting his back to the basket and working him like a greased turnstile. Nurk bullied his way to an easy 8 points in the first quarter as Portland jumped out to an early lead.
Oklahoma City didn’t threaten much, as they struggled to convert shots from just about anywhere away from the rim. The remainder of the Blazer supporting cast not named Nurkic drove in a round of threes and that was enough to seize an early 31-19 lead after one.
For however much Portland looked in control for the first 12 minutes, they looked equally lost for the next 12. (Or 36 for that matter). Thunder help defense all but canceled the “Nurkic Show,” so the Blazers had to look elsewhere for scoring. Back-to-back CJ McCollum floaters gave Portland what looked to be a commanding 40-22 lead early in the quarter, but OKC would not go away. The Thunder proceeded to outscore the Blazers 13-2 over the next 5 minutes as suddenly Portland couldn’t buy a bucket.
For OKC, buckets were available at discount, as Tre Mann and Darius Bazley - two youngsters with nothing to lose, started playing like they had nothing to lose. Instead of the Blazers putting their foot down on the neck of a wounded opponent, Portland did about the opposite, inspiring hope into a team that should be thinking about dinner plans. OKC was able to pull within single digits at 47-39 heading into the break.
Things only got worse from there. Mann and Bazley’s hot shooting escalated from isolated hot streaks to team-wide pandemonium. The Blazer defense completely fell apart and everybody on the Thunder was getting in on the action. Portland found themselves totally unable to keep pace and only mustered a paltry 14 points in the quarter while OKC had everything dialed in.
A Ty Jerome three late in the period completed the collapse, which was appropriately punctuated with a Luguentz Dort steal and layup on the final possession as time expired. The Blazers headed into the final frame trailing 65-61.
At this point, it looked like fatigue was setting in for Portland and there would be little hope of a comeback. The Thunder took that opportunity to give their home crowd a show, letting it fly with a conscience only earned by a lottery-bound team enjoying a rare blowout win. OKC launched a three-point barrage in part of a 25-7 run that sealed the game and then some. The Blazers just took their lumps, got off the floor and probably are looking forward to some rest.
Stay tuned for extended analysis of the evening coming soon!
The Blazers will get a day off before hosting the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m.