The Portland Trail Blazers get blown out 134-91 by the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight. The Blazers scored the first bucket of the game, but the rest of the contest belonged to the Thunder.
Shai Gilgeous Alexander led OKC with 28 points in only 23 minutes of play. Chet Holmgren added 16 points on a perfect 6-6 from the field and 6 rebounds. The Thunder led by as many as 47 points. Honestly it felt like more. If this was a measuring stick game, Portland came up very short. The Blazers need their injured starters to return to action as soon as possible.
On the plus side, every player scored for the Portland Trail Blazers tonight.
If you missed the game and you enjoy pain, you can find a quarter-by-quarter recap of the game here. After you’ve read that, here are the details that defined the contest.
The Future is Now
The NBA has many talented guards, but none may be better than Shai Gilgeous Alexander. In only 23 minutes of play, SGA scored 28 points on 10-13 shooting. He added 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and more spin cycles than your washer at home.
Gilgeous-Alexander is only 25 years old, but he has a grasp of the game. His drives to the rim look effortless and under control. Deandre Ayton was able to block one his layups, but everything else looked easy.
SGA’s most dominant offensive attribute is his ability to post up and shoot over his defender. He knows how to leverage his length and body movement to get a clean look at the rim. Skylar Mays was too small tonight and Toumani Camara was caught in early foul trouble due to the pressure Gilgeous-Alexander applied.
If SGA is able to stay healthy, he will be a top five player in this league for the next four to six years.
The Open Man
If you just watched the first play of the game, you would have been able to brag to all your friends about how the Blazers dominated the Thunder tonight. Ayton started the first possession on the low block and passed out of a sorry attempt of a double team from Josh Giddy only to find a cutting Camara for a thunderous dunk over the outstretched arms of Chet Holmgren. The Blazers led 2-0 and the Moda Center crowd went wild.
If you kept watching the game, you saw the same Thunder team go on an 11-0 run to force an early timeout from Head Coach Chauncey Billups.
The lopsidedness of the game tonight might have taken away from your ability to see the passing from the Blazers, but it was there. The guards continue to look for Ayton in the paint. More times than not he is open for a layup or a good-looking midrange jump shot. This young team continues to find the open shooter in the corner as well as cutters to the hoop.
Shaedon Sharpe grabbed an offensive rebound in the third quarter (a major highlight reel at the 9:44 mark) and threw it back out to an open Mays for three. Some players, especially ones with the athleticism of Sharpe, would have tried to score themselves on that offensive rebound in a game like tonight, but the Blazers are committed to making the correct play instead of the selfish one.
Making the Most of Your Misses
Portland ranks in the top 10 in offensive rebounding. That strength was on full display tonight. Their average on the season is 12.3; they collected 13 against the Thunder.
Jabari Walker is the flag bearer of the offensive rebounding group, with Camara and Ayton right there to pick up the slack. You can tell Walker likes to play inside with multiple opponents trying to fight him for boards. Camara had his usual 3-4 back taps, while Ayton found himself in the right position against Holmgren and the other OKC big men.
The misleading part of this statistic is the Blazers do miss a lot of shots, giving themselves more chances at cleaning up the glass. Still, the effort is clearly there. This is the kind of attitude Portland needs when the stakes become higher down the road.
What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?
Three seasons ago the Oklahoma City Thunder posted a record of 22-50. They had a young potential super star in SGA, expiring contracts, and a lot of draft picks. Since then, they have drafted well, developed the talent on their team, and have grown under head coach Mark Daigneault and the rest of his coaching staff. The Blazers need to look at this model, try their best to copy the same blueprint, and not panic. The health and development of Scoot Henderson will be a key factor for Portland, but hitting on one or two first round draft picks will be important.
The development of Oklahoma City’s role players was on full display tonight. It seemed like every Thunder player could shoot the ball from deep and defend their position. Blazers’ injuries this early in the season have allowed bench players a lot of action. Perhaps players like Camara, Walker, Mays, and Murray will find their role and continue to develop.
This season was always going to be rough. The Thunder are talented and out for blood, while the Blazers are dealing with injuries. They’re just are not as talented as this OKC squad. Portland made adjustments throughout the game, but the Thunder had answers for all of them.
When the Blazers started to double SGA, the OKC role players went to town at the three point line. When the Blazers went to a zone, the Thunder found open shots in the gaps or easy layups at the rim. The Thunder were just better tonight. They nearly set the NBA record for effective three point percentage.
Keep your heads up Rip City. Mama said there would be nights like this.
The Blazers will head to Phoenix to face the Suns on Tuesday night at 6:00 PM, Pacific.