Damien Lillard was out tonight, and you have to wonder if someone in the Thunder brain trust figured that his absence would have made the Trail Blazers into patsies. If someone actually thought that, surely there’s a rail out of town upon which that someone can be ridden; OKC was up two after the first, but defensive porosity gave Portland plenty of scoring opportunities, and the Blazers were more than happy to take them up on it. With 2:53 left and Portland up a bunch, Billy Donovan waved the white flag, the second time in two games he’s had to do that, and the Blazers move on to Houston tomorrow with a 117-106 victory over OKC tucked into their backpacks.
You’d barely notice that Lillard wasn’t on the court: Shabazz Napier, filling in at point guard, came up with 21 points, and beside him in the backcourt, C. J. McCollum knocked down 27. Just to make it interesting, Jusuf Nurkić added 20 more. Overall, the Blazers shot 53 percent, a good nine percentage points ahead of the Thunder. Further, the Blazers collected 42 rebounds, versus 38 for the Thunder. OKC, as usual, was led by Russell Westbrook, who finished a rebound short of a triple-double (22-9-12) and Paul George, who managed 22 more. Terrance Ferguson, who seems to be the least-terrible defender available to replace the ailing Andre Roberson, took only two shots in half an hour and missed them both.
The season is now half over, and OKC is 22-19. Extrapolate to the full 82 games and you’re looking at 44-38. Might hang on for seventh or eighth seed in the playoffs, but a long way from getting to start out at home. And tomorrow, it’s up to Minnesota to take on the actual first-place team in the Northwest. The Timberwolves have already beaten OKC twice in three games, so it’s imperative that the Thunder somehow come up with the 2-2 split for the season. I’m not holding my breath.