The Oklahoma City Thunder lost game four against the Portland Trailblazers, 111-98 the final score.
Now, the Thunder are in danger of being eliminated, for the third consecutive year, in the first round of the playoffs.
After an encouraging start, the Thunder took a 46-39 with a little bit of two minutes left in the second quarter before disappearing from the court. Portland closed the quarter on an 11-0 run and continued to hammer the Thunder in the third quarter. Oklahoma City tried to cut the lead in the fourth quarter, but Portland responded every single time and earned a deserved win.
Russell Westbrook, terrible performance
Zero field goals on seven attempts in the second half, one total point scored. Bad shot after bad shot. A simple recap of Russell Westbrook’s night. It wasn’t all bad, he played a very good first quarter, with energy and a decent shot selection (eight points, 3-6FG, 1-2 3PT), but that is not enough if you are one of the two best players on the team. In the remainder of the game, Westbrook shot 2-15 from the floor, 1-5 from behind the arc for a total of six points. Completely unacceptable performance at this point of the season. I don’t know why he keeps playing the same way when it clearly doesn’t work, but apparently, he is not changing it. Sad.
Paul George, not enough
Paul George ended up scoring thirty-two points, but it sure feels like it wasn’t enough of a good game. George, who claimed to be pain-free in his shoulder, seems to still struggle with his shooting: 8-21 FG, 4-10 3PT, 12-14 FT. George is playing hard on the defensive end, but what this team needs is more points. I am not asking Paul to score fifty, but a better shot selection and better control of the ball (four turnovers today) would indeed help.
Offense, old habits
It happens every regular season and every playoff series. When the opposite team goes on a run, and the game suggests that moving the ball and taking one possession at a time should be the correct play, the Thunder will go back to their old habits: bad-rushed shots. In game four, when Portland made a big run in the third quarter, instead of doing what worked well in the first half, OKC kept shooting in a hurry, like there was a six-eight points shot. Guess what? There isn’t, and while the Thunder kept on missing on one end, the Blazers kept playing smart basketball and build a safe margin. Tuesday will be a must-win game, but if the Thunder don’t get away from these old habits, their season will be over.
Season on the line
Once again the Thunder are facing elimination in the first round of the playoffs. If that happens, then it will be the third consecutive time. Considering all the money spent to assemble this roster, it will be the end of another disappointing season (no Carmelo Anthony to blame this time). Obviously, it’s not over until a team wins four games, but the body language and the way this OKC team is playing, suggest that the possibilities to win this series are near zero. It’s a win or go home game, superstar players usually thrive in these situations, the Thunder will need Westbrook and George to be at their top game, and the supporting cast to be impactful.
What if the Thunder start Dennis Schröder in place of Terrence Ferguson in order to have another (or maybe the only one) ball handler who can attack Kanter in the pick and roll? And how about the small line up with Grant at the five, and Ferguson at the three? It’s fast, can spread the floor, and doesn’t give up much on defense because Grant can guard mostly all Blazers’ bigs. Donovan will have to come up with some sort of adjustment, because not only the team’s season is on the line, but also his journey with the Thunder might be at high stake.
The Oklahoma City Thunder will play game five on Tuesday night in Portland. Tip-off 9.30 pm CT.
Photos by Wesley Hitt | NBAE via Getty Images and Zach Beeker | OKC Thunder