I admit to having been something less than hopeful tonight, what with the Thunder barely squeaking by Sacramento last night and the Blazers having the night off, having dispatched their previous opponent the night before — and that previous opponent being the mighty Indiana Pacers, who’d lost only one game all season before that ill-fated trip to the
Rose Garden Moda Center. And then I looked at the halftime score, OKC 59, PDX 48, and I exhaled a bit. Unfortunately, so did the Thunder: the Blazers ran all over them, up, down and through them, turning that 11-point deficit into a 3-point lead in twelve minutes. Things slipped further in the fourth, the Blazers going up seven; but the Thunder stayed close, even occasionally claiming a one-point lead. Nicolas Batum put it out of sight with a trey, the Blazers’ eighth, with 30 seconds left; LaMarcus Aldridge finished the job with two free throws. (A technical followed, which we will never speak of again.) The final: Portland 111, Oklahoma City 104, and the Blazers go two up in the Northwest.
Seldom have the Thunder ever had much of an answer for Aldridge, who had a spectacular line: 38 points (a season high) on 17-28 shooting, 13 rebounds, and five assists in 37 minutes. All five Portland starters finished in double figures, and all but Batum were +10 or better for the night. The Blazers led in rebounds, 47-43, and perhaps more tellingly in assists: 22-11.
So a 33-point Kevin Durant explosion went for naught, as did a Serge Ibaka double-double and 21 points from Russell Westbrook. As is always the case these days, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb led the second unit; Jackson had 12 points in 29 minutes, Lamb 10 in 26. Radio guy Matt Pinto did some grousing about the officiating, but bad calls, of course, remain calls.
If the West Coast has been a bruiser this season — well, the Big Easy beckons: the Thunder take on the Pelicans Friday night, before returning home to deal with, um, those mighty Indiana Pacers.