In a game that probably caused heart palpitations among their front offices, the Portland Trail Blazers gave up a last-second game-tying three-pointer to Oklahoma City, then fell in overtime, 134-131. With Trendon Watford and Greg Brown III inactive, Portland looked like they still had enough to win, but made crucial mistakes with the game on the line.
The game flow was mostly irrelevant. Neither team maintained a significant margin, with Portland’s largest lead reaching 10 in the fourth quarter, before OKC quickly closed the gap. Most of the game revolved around long stretches of poor defense, with both teams repeatedly enjoying open three-pointers, and finished with a burst of energy from both sides trying to steal a win.
In a game like this, where both orgs are focused on draft position, the winner was arguably the loser, and the loser was the winner. Let’s visit that further in tonight’s first key point.
Oklahoma Swing. With injury lists longer than their active rosters, both Portland and Oklahoma City placed themselves in a position to lose, which would be advantageous to their aspirations for a high draft pick. Thanks to last-place Houston winning two consecutive games (against these Blazers), OKC could see a slim chance at finishing with the worst record in the league. Meanwhile, Portland was still within reach of the 5th-worst record. But Indiana and Sacramento both lost tonight, so tonight’s last-second loss allowed the Blazers to “keep pace” with them for draft position, while hurting OKC’s hopes at higher odds of the top pick.
One More Last Chance. Portland made some noticeable errors in critical moments: First, they allowed OKC to get a clean look for three in the final seconds when they could have fouled for two free throws. Next, down one late in overtime, their defense allowed an open layup from a back-court inbound pass. Then, down three, OKC didn’t foul, but Portland couldn’t take advantage, settling for a layup as the clock ran down, with no timeouts. And lastly, down three after two free throws, they inbounded the ball to a player right under OKC’s hoop, leaving them no real shot as the the final seconds ticked away.
Look At Us. The Blazers’ hot-shooting guard tandem of Brandon Williams and Ben McLemore kept the Blazers in business all night. Williams scored 25, including 5-8 from three, and McLemore had a game-high 28.
Next Big Thing. The Shaq of Troutdale, Drew Eubanks, showed off his all-around skillset tonight. When Portland needed to be stabilized in the fourth quarter and overtime, he took care of business inside with some key shots and offensive putbacks. He didn’t quite flirt with a 5x5, but finished with a career-high 27 points, plus 14 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
The Blazers enjoy a day off at home, followed by a reunion with some old friends: CJ McCollum, Larry Nance Jr, Tony Snell, and the playoff-hunting New Orleans Pelicans visit Moda Center on Wednesday night.