After a disturbingly early matchup in Philadelphia on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the Thunder returned to the Chesapeake Energy arena about 30 hours later and picked up their second win in a row against another NBA power.
For the second time this season, the Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in an impressive way, playing their brand of basketball throughout as they win their third-straight game, over Portland, who was tied for third place with the Thunder in the Western Conference heading into this game.
Although the Thunder got off to a great shooting start in the first quarter with Paul George erupting for 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting, they were commiting too many fouls. Oklahoma City was a bit overzealous on defense and committed eight fouls, which kept the score tied at the quarter’s end at 25.
Threes started to fall for OKC in the second quarter, where Patrick Patterson, Terrance Ferguson, Russell Westbrook, Jerami Grant, and George all connected from long distance. More importantly, OKC stepped up their defense. Although the Trail Blazers scored 30 points, they were all in the paint. They were 6-of-7 from there, and 4-of-13 from beyond the arc.
It was a classic case of Portland trying to keep up with OKC’s three-point outburst, which simply couldn’t match OKC’s 7-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. That’s what put the Thunder ahead 62-55 at halftime and changed the tone of the entire game.
That wouldn’t go without some entertainment. You know Portland had to make things interesting. While still playing substantial team defense, Portland started setting screens on Terrance Ferguson, CJ McCollum’s primary defender. Ferguson, a player that has become a solid defensive option, particularly on screens, knowing when to go over or under one, struggled against Portland and as result, McCollum went 8-for-10 in the third quarter, including 6-of-7 from three and made this game closer than it was.
While McCollum shot 7-of-12 from three, the rest of the Trail Blazers shot 3-of-24. He was all they had.
In the fourth quarter, Dennis Schröder, Westbrook and George just maintained everything. The Thunder defense was still turning into points and the trio combined for 24 of the team’s 30 points in the quarter. Every time Portland tried to get a run going, the Thunder stumped them with defense. Portland shot 11-25 in the final quarter.
After OKC’s most impressive win of the year earlier in January against the Trail Blazers, they went on a (1-5) skid. After two wins in a row against two projected playoff teams, where OKC looked completely dominant maybe the Thunder are back to their old ways.
- Paul George: 36 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists.
- Russell Westbrook: 29 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds.
- Terrance Ferguson: 14 points, 4 steals.
- Steven Adams: 14 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals.
This torturous stretch of basketball isn’t over for the Thunder. They face New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Boston all within the next two weeks, three games where their defense will be tested.
The Thunder was impressive. Let’s hope they can keep solid playing – offense and defense going. Great story.