The Portland Trail Blazers fell 93-96 to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night. The game had all the charm of opening up a pizza delivery box and finding a walrus inside. Nobody really wants it, and darned if anyone knows what to do with it either.
The Blazers shot 39.6% from the field in the ugly affair. The Thunder actually shot worse, but 101 shots for Portland versus just 87 for OKC kept Portland right in it. 6-33 shooting from the arc doomed the home club, though. 18.2% on threes when threes are literally the only thing your offense does well? That’s going to hurt.
If you missed the action, you lucky son-of-a-gun, you! Also you can find our quarter-by-quarter recap here. After you’re caught up, here’s the rest of the story.
As might be expected after trading away 40% of the starting lineup, Portland’s continuity was a wee bit fractured tonight. CJ Elleby and Tony Snell started. Snell acquitted himself well (5-10 shooting, 13 points), but ball movement and wing cutting were shaky all night long. Inside play from Jusuf Nurkic—plus more than a few offensive rebounds—helped steady them out of it. Their sets ended up looking pretty good by the middle periods. only to disintegrate again as the game wound down.
It’s pretty safe to say that we should expect to see a different brand of Blazers basketball from this point forward.
It didn’t seem possible, but the Blazers are actually smaller after today’s trade than they were prior. Or at least they have more 6’6 and under players. Until Larry Nance, Jr. gets back, opponents are going to tower over Portland’s new lineup. Raise your hand if you think somebody’s going to take advantage of that.
Portland had plenty of candidates to take over the game when the going got tough and the lineup got empty.
CJ McCollum had the first crack at it. He had a fairly quiet, 9-24 shooting night, though he did convert a couple of key layups late to almost save his team.
Jusuf Nurkic was next in line. His hustle was impressive. He grabbed 16 rebounds, dominating with 7 offensive boards. But he shot 6-19 from the field, mostly on inside attempts.
Anfernee Simons had the right to make a bid too. He shot better than his veteran counterparts, hitting 7-15 from the field for 19 points. That was the same total as McCollum, produced far more efficiently. But down the stretch, Simons contributed turnovers and misses instead of points.
Suffice it to say, the Blazers are still looking.
The Thunder turned to Luguentz Dort in the clutch, but he led on the defensive end, not just on offense. They also played more like a team, not waiting for a leader to bail them out. Though the win was humble, that turned out to be the correct approach.
Greg Brown III
Greg Brown III is gaining confidence with every week. He was energized, attacking, equally unafraid to shoot deep or attack inside. His development could be one of the interesting stories for the remainder of the season. Brown scored 7 in 16 minutes tonight.
The Blazers shot UGLY to start this game. To their credit, they didn’t keep heaving. Instead they set screens, penetrated, and converted inside shots. Only when they were able to score in the paint did the lid come off the basket. The caveat is, bigger teams with better defenders will not offer Portland the same kind of scoring options the Thunder did. But it was nice to see them adjust so concisely and effectively after such an odd start. They finished with 58 points in the paint.
Portland’s offensive rebounds became a great eraser, taking away the consequences of multiple mistakes and sub-40% shooting. Nurkic set the tone, banging hard in the lane, his eyes open for scoring opportunities off of put-backs. His team picked up on the energy and followed suit. The Blazers finished with 18 offensive boards.
The two teams combined for just 31 free throw attempts tonight. The majority of them came in the last third of the game. The first half went super-quick because of the extreme lack of whistles. It was almost like the refs agreed that this game didn’t matter enough to risk missing room service at the hotel. Let’s see if that becomes a pattern.
The Blazers welcome the Milwaukee Bucks tomorrow night at 7:00 PM.