For those wondering if the Portland Trail Blazers would win another game this season, the answer might be no. They’ll never have a better chance than they did versus the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight, up 19 in the final frame. But their shooting went ice cold, their defense flopped, and OKC went crazy from distance, downing the Blazers 98-94. Those rooting for good feelings were disappointed, but Team Tank breathed a sigh of relief.
Keon Johnson had 18 point for the Blazers in the loss, Greg Brown III and Ben McLemore 17 apiece. The Thunder worked the margins well, amassing 12 steals and 12 blocks.
“Frantic” and “Ugly” were the two best adjectives to describe the opening of this game. Both teams tried to play with tempo. Neither took care of the ball that well, and nobody could hit an outside shot to save their lives. Bobbles, miscues, and blown-defense layups typified the Frugliness. Lindy Waters III broke the ice outside midway through the period, hitting a couple of threes. That gave permission for Portland to do so as well. Five triples between the two teams made the scoreboard tick, but neither could gain separation. Oklahoma City led 29-27 after one.
The Thunder spent the second quarter duplicating the first: poking away steals, running out for dunks, dribbling their way into short shots in the halfcourt, missing all their deeper jumpers. The Blazers shifted into another gear, hitting multiple three-pointers, bombing with aplomb. That sent the scoreboard spinning in a way the Thunder couldn’t cope with. The Blazers led 50-40 with 3:00 left. They gave some of it back off of fast breaks. Oklahoma City’s shot chart in the second looked like a star cluster underneath the rim. But Portland still led 54-48 at intermission.
Oklahoma City’s inability to hit the deep shot allowed Portland to double-team on the dribble as the second half began. They did it multiple time, each time forcing the Thunder into a bail-out shot from deep. OKC’s scoring dried up almost instantly. They scored just 5 points in the first 5 minutes of the third.
Meanwhile the Blazers tattooed the restricted area with a bevy of layups and dunks. They had as many makes from two feet and in as the Thunder had points. At the 5:00 mark of the third, Portland was up by 17, 75-58. The only question was, could they bring it home? Ben McLemore’s three-point strikes said, “Yes!” Portland led 82-67 after three.
The fourth period started with McLemore and Keon Johnson stroking threes. That appeared to put the game away. To that point, OKC had taken an entire game to hit the amount the Blazers tallied in just a couple minutes. Portland’s defense didn’t hold up as well, though. Nor did their rebounding and ball-handling. Behind fast break points and those long-awaited three-pointers, Oklahoma City cut Portland’s lead from 19 to 4 by the 6:00 mark. Turnovers gave the Thunder every chance they needed.
Head Coach Chauncey Billups. sensing disaster, put his starters back in with 5:00 left in the game, Portland up 4. McLemore tried to resurrect his early-game magic, but missed consecutive shots. The Thunder were not so unlucky. They hit multiple shots, forced plenty of turnovers, and started running away with the game. With 2:00 remaining, OKC had hit 13 field goals, the Blazers only 4. The Thunder finished the game on a 20-6 run and walked away with the victory.
Stay tuned for analysis from the game, coming soon!
The Blazers draw the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday evening with a 5:00, Pacific start.