If you remember last year’s Trail Blazers, as Scott Brooks surely does, you might figure that neutralizing Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge would be enough to secure a win. And you’d be almost correct: Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard did good work on the wing, though Matthews faltered in the second half, and the Thunder really didn’t put this one away until the fourth quarter, when Portland’s barrage of treys they put up 26 of them started failing to connect. OKC 106, Portland 92, and suddenly things look a lot nicer than they did last night in San Antonio.
Aldridge didn’t stay neutralized he finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds but he shot 8-22, which is actually right about the team average (36 percent) for the night. And after hitting seven of ten for distance, the Blazers went 2-16 from beyond the arc for the rest of the night. Batum was held to three points; J. J. Hickson, in the middle, put together a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards. Radio guy Matt Pinto said early on that this wasn’t an especially deep team, and the meager 15 points contributed by the bench corroborates that assessment. (And the return of the Telltale Statistic: Portland blocked exactly zero shots tonight.)
Meanwhile, OKC got major bench production from Kevin Martin (19 points) and Nick Collison (12), and rookie Jeremy Lamb, brought in for garbage time, promptly sank a 27-footer for his first three NBA points. Up front, Kevin Durant flirted with a career high, but just missed: he had 17 rebounds to go with 23 points. And we got to see the Good Russell Westbrook tonight: 13-24 from the floor for 32 points. Downside: Kendrick Perkins went down late in the fourth and did not return, and the nature of his ailment was not immediately disclosed.
Next up: Eastern Conference teams. The Hawks will be here Sunday, the Raptors Tuesday, followed by a trip to Chicago Thursday and a home game against Detroit on Friday.