Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder lost for the fourth time against the Portland TrailBlazers, and they have now been eliminated from the 2018-2019 playoffs. The team led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George couldn’t do anything against Damian Lillard, who not only scored fifty points but also hit an incredible game-winner at the buzzer.
The Thunder fought in the first quarter, Portland came back in the second, but OKC closed the third on a strong run, and the momentum seemed to switch.
Oklahoma City took a fifteen points lead with a bit more than six minutes left in the game, but the Thunder let it slip away possession after possession. While Lillard was unstoppable on one side, OKC wasn’t able to hit a dagger to put the game away. It came down to the last possession, one per team. Westbrook missed a contested layup, while on the other end Lillard hit a step back 37-footer shot to close the game, the series, and the debate on who’s the better team this year.
Damian Lillard, epic
I usually try to focus on the Thunder when I am writing my five thoughts, but what Lillard did last night was incredible and will be history forever. He tore apart the Thunder’s defense. It didn’t matter who was defending him, he could not be stopped. Lillard finished the game with fifty points (17-33 FG, 10-18 3PT, 6-8 FT), seven rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block, and six turnovers. He probably played the best game of his career, and once again, the Thunder were on the losing side of history.
Paul George, no regrets
This time around, in the elimination game, Paul George gave everything he had, played a fantastic game on both ends of the floor despite being in fouls trouble, and he deserves nothing but praise. Sure, he missed two crucial free-throw and had one costly turnover by the end, but he finished with thirty-six points (14-20 FG, 3-8 3PT, 5-8 FT), nine rebounds, and three assists. He was the main reason the Thunder were able to compete and almost win the game. He played through pain in his shoulder, he will get surgery this summer, and hopefully, he will 100% healthy when the new season starts.
Supporting cast, present
During this first round, on the road, the supporting cast wasn’t effective. However, yesterday night, they played a great all-around game. I am talking about Jerami Grant, who finished with sixteen points (7-8 FG, 2-2 3PT, 0-1 FT), and eight rebounds, and three blocks. I am talking about Dennis Schröder who added seventeen points (7-10 FG, 2-3 3PT, 1-2 FT), and yes also Steven Adams and Terrence Ferguson. The other “four starters” played a solid game on the road. They did their job, and they did it well.
Russell Westbrook, be humble
Russell Westbrook had a bad shooting night, he finished the game with eleven baskets on thirty-one attempts. That’s bad. He didn’t take many bad shots, but he missed almost everything. This has been a recurring situation all season long. Despite his shooting struggles, Westbrook was able to impact the game in other areas: fourteen assists, eleven rebounds, four steals, and two blocks. However, he has been outplayed by Damian Lillard all night long (or you can say, all series long). When guarded by Westbrook Lillard scored twenty points on twentyone possessions per stats.nba.com. Here below a screenshot of how he scored the fifty points.
Screenshot by The Nylon Calculus
Westbrook talked a lot about how he busted Dame ass for years, but when he got the chance during this playoffs, he failed to walk the talk. Big time to be honest.
This being said, in my opinion, Russell Westbrook needs to come into next season more humble, less trash talk on the court, less “hate” for the media, and try to play the game as the best of his qualities while maintaining his cool. This might have been the worst defeat of his career, and hopefully, it will help him to get better.
Offseason, big again
This offseason will be another huge one. Once again, Sam Presti will have his hands full, a lot of decisions are on the way. Will Billy Donovan stay? Who will be traded? Who will be acquired? Will Oklahoma City stick with the same core, or they will hold on only to Westbrook and George? For sure it will be interesting, but something has to happen because it’s impossible to justify another first-round exit (the third in a row), especially with the second highest payroll in the league.
Cover Photo by Steven Dykes | NBAE via Getty Images