Whatever the Portland Trail Blazers were expecting when they visited the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, it certainly wasn’t a grand tour of Dante’s Inferno. But that’s exactly what Shai Gilegous-Alexander and company gave Portland, dragging them through a 75-39 first half on their way to a 139-77 victory.
The Blazers did almost nothing right, shooting 27.7% as a team while giving up 57.0%. Anfernee Simons led their starters with 14 points on 4-13 shooting, followed by Scoot Henderson with 13, shooting 4-21. Gilgeous-Alexander’s 31 on 11-15 shooting made that production superfluous. Thunder guard Josh Giddey notched a triple-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 12 assists.
Here’s how the game went.
Scoot Henderson started Portland off right, stealing the ball from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for a run-out dunk and stroking a three on consecutive possessions. For about 60 seconds, it looked like Portland was going to get serious about the challenge. But the Thunder scored on five quick possessions, the majority layups and dunks. The Blazers’ inability to defend the paint haunted them once again, but no more than Anfernee Simons picking up his second foul in the first four minutes of the contest. With 8:30 remaining, Oklahoma City led 14-7. This after a 5-0 Portland start. When the Thunder started seriously outrunning the Blazers too, Head Coach Chauncey Billups called timeout. His team trailed by 11 with less than 5:00 elapsed.
Despite the huddle-up, the story continued for the rest of the period. The Blazers were all but paralyzed in the face of OKC’s penetration, paint production, and passing. Without Simons, Portland’s own scoring attempts came largely off of isolation moves. That set up the Thunder defense to look even better than it does organically. Henderson continued to shine on offense, but Oklahoma City had 28 points in the paint and put three players in double figures in the first. They led 36-24 as the period concluded.
Chet Holmgren continued to destroy the Blazers as the second quarter commenced. They had no answer for him. Simons returned, which opened up the floor spacing considerably. Unfortunately the Blazers missed 5 three-pointers in the first 4:00 of the period. They scored inside a couple times, but Oklahoma City matched that AND they hit their midrange shots and even a three. With 6:00 left, the Thunder had Portland by 20, 51-31.
It only got worse from there. Portland’s mix-and-match lineups rebounded decently, but they defended like soggy Kleenex and shot like Imperial Stormtroopers. The glazed look of pained defeat started to cross Portland’s visage right around the 4:00 mark of the second, perhaps a new record for the season. The Thunder led 75-39 at the break.
If you think Portland’s energy picked up after halftime, think again. Oklahoma City held a party at the start of the third, hitting 10 of their first 11 shots, including 4 three-pointers. The Blazers, desperately trying to get back into it, launched plenty of threes themselves. In that same span, they hit only 3—one less than their opponents—and literally no other shots besides. At the timeout with 5:46 left in the third, Portland trailed 101-52. The margin would rise past 50 just a couple possessions later. Oops.
After that, Oklahoma City put in their third unit, giving the lower-bench players some run. Their game stalled, but it could have rolled in reverse for a few miles before they’d even come close to giving up that kind of lead.
Despite subbing in guys who barely get playing time midway through, the Thunder outscored the Blazers 43-17 in the third. Missing only 6 shots out of about a billion taken, they led by 62, 118-56, after that frame. The game was over, and mercifully, so is this recap.
Stay tuned for analysis, coming soon!
The long and tortuous road trip concludes tomorrow as the Blazers draw the conference-leading Minnesota Timberwolves tomorrow with a 5:00 PM, Pacific start.