“Both teams,” said radio guy Matt Pinto at the three-minute mark, “are gassed.” The Thunder played in New York yesterday afternoon, the Blazers in Salt Lake City last night. There did seem to be a slowing of the pace late in the game, but I’m willing to consider that it might have been just my imagination running away with me. Or maybe I’m used to seeing Russell Westbrook fading in the stretch, which he most certainly did not do tonight. Oklahoma City 123, Portland 114, 2-0 in the season series, which matters a little bit if you’re in the same division as the Blazers, which OKC certainly is. And with this game in the bag, OKC moves to 29-18, while Portland drops to 29-20. Still, both of them trail Denver by three or four games, and at the moment, Denver is second only to, um, those guys in Oakland.
The Blazers’ offense came from the usual suspects: Damian Lillard with 34, C. J. MacCollum with 31, and Jusuf Nurkić with 22, plus a hefty 15 rebounds. (Portland owned the boards tonight, 50-37.) Neither side got a whole lot from the second unit, 23 for the Blazers, 19 for the Thunder. But OKC’s big-number guys generally got big numbers, with yet another Westbrook triple-double (29-10-14), Paul George being the plussest of the plus-minus (+16) with 36 points, and six in double figures. Still, the second plussest, at +13, was Nerlens Noel, who took only one shot all night and missed it. He did, however, have three boards, two dimes, and two steals, evidently at exactly the right time.
Two more games on this Thunder homestand: Thursday against the Pelicans, who may or may not have Anthony Davis ready following a hand injury, and then Sunday against the Bucks, who at 34-12 have a better record than anyone, including, um, those guys in Oakland.