After one of their best wins of the season, the Oklahoma City Thunder returned home to play one of the hottest teams in the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers, who won four-straight games before their game in OKC. Portland muscled out a hard-fought victory over the shorthanded Thunder, winning their fifth-straight, 115-104, despite a valiant comeback performance by the Thunder.
Here are five things that stuck out after Tuesday night’s game.
Instead of starting strong, OKC got behind early.
And that made things difficult for the Thunder through the rest of the game. They didn’t display that same defense focus that they’ve branded lately and allowed the Trail Blazers to get off to a double-digit lead early in the game while shooting 50 percent.
The city of OKC was conserving energy. Dort didn’t get the memo.
Luguentz Dort started the game with a ton of energy on both ends of the floor. Dort’s a spectacular defender, which was evidenced during last season’s bubble, but his energy is to credit for that. Although he wasn’t scoring much, his diving for loose balls, playing tough defense on whoever he guarded, and overall impact on his teammates in this game spoke wonders and sparked their fourth-quarter comeback.
Speaking of Dort’s energy, his defense on Damian Lillard was great.
Dort’s defense on Lillard was spectacular as usual. It’s safe to say that if there’s a player that can somewhat contain Lillard, it’s Dort, who has won their matchup three-straight times. Dort almost got the best of Lillard tonight as well, but the final three minutes determined something different. Fourteen of Lillard’s 31 points came in the fourth quarter, and nine of those 14 came in the final 3:22 of the game, which clinched Portland’s fifth-straight win.
Nevertheless, the Haitian sensation held Lillard to 7-of-17 shooting up until the fourth quarter.
Darius Bazley looked like he was going for 25-plus, then tapered off.
Bazley has periods where he’ll rack up a quick 10 points in a quarter. Then he’ll somewhat disappear on the offensive side of the ball. In the first quarter, Bazley tallied seven points on 3-of-6 shooting and featured some dazzling moves in the meantime. Through the final three quarters, Bazley scored five points on 1-of-120 shooting.
Kanter gon’ rebound. But Horford and Roby kept him from getting second-chance buckets.
Enes Kanter had a very unconventional stat line against the Thunder. He’s built the reputation of being one of, if not the best rebounder in the NBA. Especially on the offensive boards. Against the Thunder, he pulled down 21 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Still, he wasn’t able to capitalize with many put-backs thanks to Al Horford’s activeness primarily, and secondarily Isaiah Roby. Kanter only scored eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. The Trail Blazers only scored 32 points in the paint.
The Thunder will hit the road immediately following tonight’s game for a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies tomorrow night and a rematch against the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday.