Some might have been thinking that the Trail Blazers might have been tired after a long slog at New Orleans last night. Not so: all five starters played 38 minutes or more, and all of them scored in double figures. And with one minute left, they’d fought back from a 16-point deficit in the first half to take a four-point lead not with their vaunted offense, but with a suffocating defense that led the Thunder to do some fairly dumb things in that final frame. (It didn’t help that OKC uncharacteristically missed three of eight free throws.) With 19 seconds left, the Blazers, up by one, burned their last time out; Mo Williams drew a foul and uncharacteristically missed both free throws; the Thunder could not control the rebound, and Wesley Matthews wound up on the line and sank two to put the Blazers up by three. Then Kevin Durant hit one of two foul shots, managed to retrieve the ball, but his shot didn’t fall, and Damian Lillard closed the door with two freebies: PDX 98, OKC 94, and the game and a half distance between them shrinks to just a half.
There is, of course, a Telltale Statistic: Durant had 36 points after three quarters, and finished with 37. With that sort of thing going on, or not going on, the fact that Jeremy Lamb all by himself outscored the entire Portland bench (10-9) seems fairly unimportant. The OKC perimeter defense wasn’t too bad the Blazers put up 33 treys and made only eight but the Thunder hit only three of 14. Perhaps more pertinent: Portland collected 16 points from 11 Thunder turnovers, while giving it up only six times for six points.
And then there’s LaMarcus Aldridge, whom the Thunder can defend only fitfully at best. He scored 25 points and collected 14 boards, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Lillard, who had more minutes than anyone forty-one picked up 21 points and served up eleven dimes. (OKC in aggregate had only 15 assists.)
So Portland is now 2-0 against the Thunder, with two yet to play. Almost makes you wonder how this rivalry would go if the Sonics were still up Interstate 5. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn Nets will find their way here for a Thursday game.
Addendum: I must pass this along:
The end of that game was like being forced to listen to a Hinder CD.
— Steve's OKC Central (@stevelackmeyer) January 1, 2014