The game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night didn’t need an analyst as much as a physician pronouncing time of death. After falling behind by 60 points on the scoreboard in the third period, the Blazers themselves might need an analyst. And a strong drink. And one of those Men In Black memory-blanking things. A 139-77 loss will do that to you.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 on 11-15 shooting in the victory. That alone outdid Portland’s two leading scorers, Anfernee Simons (14) and Scoot Henderson (13). The starting guards shot a combined 8-34. Nobody else reached double figures for the Blazers.
If you’re shown a replay of this game, swipe left. But you can read our quarter-by-quarter recap here to get an idea of the game flow.
Normally we use this post to do in-depth reflection on the proceedings. There’s not much to say about a game like this, but let’s cover one decent thing that happened, then take a lesson from Portland’s ongoing slide into infamy.
Scoot Henderson couldn’t help Portland’s defense much, their chronic issue all night. Watching his three-point shot was like taking a cheese grater to the eyeballs. BUT...Scoot is starting to look good on drives now. His timing—both initial step and pace while dribbling—is much better than it was early in the season. He’s finding seams in the defense and space at the rim. At the start of the year, he never got to the bucket, period.
Henderson’s athleticism and sturdiness allow him to pull tricks and absorb contact that most players can’t. This is going to be a big deal for him and we’re starting to see the skill emerging.
Having said that, gather ‘round and learn why the Blazers are losing so badly, so often.
Most people point to turnovers and three-point shooting as points of weakness for this team. Fair enough. They’re not spectacular in either area. But they’re not giving up huge margins either. The Blazers are 28th in the league in turnovers committed at 15.3, but 2nd in turnovers forced with 15.5, making the category a wash. Similarly, they shoot three-pointers at a not-so-great 34.7% clip, but they hold opponents to 33.4%, leaving the category as a surprisingly-solid win for them.
None of that matters when Portland’s getting killed in the easy-bucket categories. They score only 13.3 fast break points per game, but they’re giving up a league-worst 17.8. They average 44.7 points in the paint each night, their opponents 56.3.
Remember that shiny three-point percentage edge? On two-point shots, Portland shoots 48.6%, their opponents 58.6%. That’s not just bad, its negligent. The Blazers are the worst team in the league scoring in the paint by percentage, also the worst team in the league defending the paint. There ain’t enough other stuff in the basketball universe to make up for that kind of deficit.
Tonight the Thunder scored their first 16 points of the game inside. They finished with a 70-30 edge in points in the paint. Oklahoma City’s starting bigs—Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams—shot 18-23 from the field between them. Fast breaks read 14-11 for OKC.
The great thing about the NBA is the next game always being right around the corner. Portland’s comes on Friday night. They’re going up against the twin towers of Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert in Minnesota. Let’s see if they can shore a couple things up and look a wee bit more respectable.
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.