Portland vs. OKC Game 1: Fix slow start, shooting, OKC will be fine

A near-historically bad shooting performance for the Thunder, while giving up 39 points in the first quarter to the Portland Trail Blazers nearly ended in a Game 1 comeback victory for OKC in the Moda Center.

The narrative coming into this NBA playoff series has been that OKC is the better team, and even after a deplorable shooting performance from three, that statement holds true, as Portland held on to defeat the sixth-seeded Thunder 104-99.

Portland shot 7-of-10 from three-point range to start this Game 1 matchup against the Thunder, thus outscoring them 39-25 after the first quarter. The game started off with Damian Lillard hoisting up a 25-footer from the right wing with confidence, and the ball subsequently swishing through the nylon.

That caught Westbrook and the Thunder off guard, like a haymaker, and in typical Thunder fashion, they tried to keep up with the Blazers shooting early on; which went horribly and tragically south.

OKC’s gameplan wasn’t to jack threes up at a ridiculous rate, but that’s what it turned into for the most part. The original gameplan was for the offense to pound the paint, attacking a defensively unable Enes Kanter in the paint, either getting him in foul trouble, thus eliminating him from the game or making Portland adjust. Portland never had to adjust their game, because OKC fed right into what Portland wanted them to do, offensively speaking.

The Thunder shot 5-of-33 (15.2 percent) from three while Portland shot a much more efficient 11-of-25 (44 percent) from three.

Other than the first quarter, OKC increased their defensive intensity and seemingly their overall gameplan against Portland, paying more attention to the perimeter and ramping up their on-ball defense. One thing they didn’t seem to plan much for was Enes Kanter and his 20 points and 18 rebounds, seven of which were offensive.

Something that has to be frustrating for the Thunder looking back at the box score is that three-point percentage compared to how effective they were inside the paint. While they were 5-of-33 from three, they were 33-for-60 from inside the arc. Surely, they would have made up a five-point deficit if they would have stuck to attacking the paint.

Ultimately, the Thunder and their fans shouldn’t take this loss as a worry point. If anything, this shows that the Thunder can have one of the worst possible shooting nights from long distance against the Portland Trail Blazers on the road and still somehow pull out a victory. Even with Enes Kanter, C.J. McCollum, and Lillard lighting them up.

OKC turned on the defense through three quarters, only giving up 65 points after allowing 39 in the first quarter. Despite trying to outshoot Portland at times, which turned out to be their demise, OKC found a way to outscore them 54-42 in the paint, which points even more towards them continuing with what was working. The Thunder forced 18 Portland turnovers and outscored them in fast-break points 16-9. Lastly, both team’s benches are known to be below average, but OKC’s had the slight edge, over Portlands, 21-17.

This all boils down to OKC’s slow start, allowing 39 points in the first quarter and their 15.2 percent three-point shooting for the game. Other than that, you have to look at this series optimistically. the Thunder won’t shoot this badly again this series.

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