I was all ready to trot out a Frail Blazers joke, what with Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and J. J. Hickson all ailing. Well, Hickson did show up, pulling down seven rebounds in 13 minutes, and right before the first-half horn, the Blazers were up by two. As the horn sounded, Thabo Sefolosha dropped in a trey, and that was pretty much it: Oklahoma City outscored Portland 26-7 in the third, and the Blazers never quite got back into it, the Thunder handing them a 106-90 thrashing.
And anyway, OKC was off two players also: Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Martin were both out, meaning that Hasheem Thabeet got the start at center and someone else would have to do the scoring for the bench. That someone else, mostly, was Reggie Jackson, who knocked down 17 points, alongside Derek Fisher with nine. And we got to see Ronnie Brewer for more than a second or two: he missed the two shots he took, but he gathered seven rebounds and executed two steals, just what a defense-minded swingman ought to be doing. We can probably count out Kevin Durant for the scoring title this year, unless he goes off for 50 against Sacramento next week: he had a modest 16 tonight, with Russell Westbrook doing the heavy lifting (33 points, three steals).
Weird but nonetheless Telltale Statistic: last time OKC came to Portland, rookie guard Damian Lillard scored nine points on 3-14 shooting. This time, Lillard bagged ten points — on 3-14 shooting. Will Barton, starting in place of Batum, had a team-high 18; LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 12, seemingly about one-sixteenth of his average. On the upside, the Blazers coaxed 40 points out of their reserves, led by OKC expat Eric Maynor with 11. At least he’s getting some playing time in Portland: you, or at least I, hated to see him riding the pine.
And that’s the last road game of the regular season. The traveling Thunder went a highly respectable 26-15; they’re 33-6 at home with two games left. (Denver obligingly lost tonight, so OKC clinches the Northwest.) San Antonio, half a game back, has three games left, two on the road. I’m starting to like OKC’s chances for the #1 seed, especially since #8 is going to be either the Lakers or the Jazz; I just don’t see Houston dropping their last three, and truth be told, I’d rather they had to play the Spurs in the first round.