Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost game two of the first round against the Portland Trailblazers, 94-114 the final score.
After a well-played first quarter, where defense and offense worked out perfectly, by the end of the second quarter, the Thunder found themselves in a little bit of a funk. Portland took advantage of some Thunder’s defensive collapses and of the usual OKC’s shooting struggles to tie the game at the long break, 54-54.
Oklahoma City came out flat in the second half, and with all the momentum switching to the Blazer’s side, the Thunder weren’t able to respond. Portland outscored OKC 37 to 21 in the third quarter to virtually close the game. The Thunder didn’t have the energy or the power to make a run in the fourth, and now they are heading back home down 2-0
Russell Westbrook, breath
Russell Westbrook needs to relax and don’t take this matchup against Lillard too much personal. He did a great job in game one, played a controlled game, and kept his composure. In game two? Not so much. Lillard outplayed him badly, on both ends of the floor, and instead of calming down, he just did what most of the times he does: he lost control. The team followed up. Westbrook finished with fourteen points, nine rebounds, eleven assists, one steal, and six turnovers. In the post-game interviews, he called his game “unacceptable” and that he has to do a better job. Everyone agrees with his statement. Game three will tell.
Paul George, improving
I think Paul George played better in game two than he did in game one. George shot the ball better (11-20 FG, 2-7 3PT, 3-4 FT), especially in the first half, and defended well. However, PG had some costly turnovers, specifically in the third quarter, which led to a lot of Portland’s points. Paul has the ability to attack the rim and draw fouls. He should do that more often because the Balzers don’t have a great interior defense. Use the pick and roll, put pressure on the bigs, go downhill, and it’s more likely to have success than just shooting threes.
Shooting, what now?
In game one, The Thunder shot the ball terribly, 5-31 from behind the three points line. However, this didn’t change their approach in game two, as they proceeded to shoot twenty-eight more three-pointers and missed twenty-three of them. That’s now a total of 10-61. Impossible to win any game with these type of numbers. Something has to change. Maybe playing at home will help, maybe attacking the pain more will help, or maybe nothing will change, and OKC will just keep shooting threes and fall off a cliff. It’s up to Donovan and the players to find the best way to turn the series around. Not an easy task, but they showed a lot of times that they are a better team than this.
Jerami Grant, where are you?
So far, one of the biggest disappointments in this series is Grant. Jerami is such an important key player in the Thunder’s offense, that when he is not playing well, Oklahoma City always struggles. In the first two games, Grant combined for eleven points, while shooting 3-15 from the floor and 0-8 from behind the arc. Not optimal, actually, it is pretty bad. Billy Donovan has to find a way to get Grant involved, not only having him shooting threes but also in the post. Maybe playing in Oklahoma City will help his confidence and the Thunder will take advantage of it.
Defend the three points line
It’s easier said than done I know, but Oklahoma City needs to do a better job in defending the three points line. The Blazers are shooting 42% from behind the arc, Lillard and McCollum seem to be unstoppable (15-33 3PT combined), but the Thunder have to be more focused on the closing out and on the help defense. Adjustments need to be done, and game three will tell us more about where this team stands.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play game 3 at home on Friday night. Tip-off 8.30 p.m. CT.
Photos by Zach Becker | OKC Thunder & Sam Forencich | NBAE via Getty Images