Exit of the gladiators

It took a little while to notice him in the double-zero jersey, but no doubt about it, it was Enes Kanter coming off the Portland bench, and it’s always a treat to see him. (He scored three points, but reeled in six rebounds.) And that’s about the last kindly thing I feel like saying about the Frail Blazers, who, in the eyes of radio guy Matt Pinto, were being given the benefit of the doubt on too many calls. (I don’t know what Pinto was talking about: quite often there wasn’t any doubt.) And in circumstances like this, when three teams have exactly the same record, you have to figure that things are going to be wild. With 45 seconds left, a pair of Damien Lillard free throws brought the score to a 111-all tie; after a couple of second-chance points didn’t materialize, Terrance Ferguson managed a stickback to give the Thunder a 113-111 lead. The Blazers got the ball back with :13 left, and after a brief contretemps, Paul George and Jusuf Nurkić drew double technicals, and unfortunately for Nurkić that was his second tech, and out he went. Jerami Grant actually fouled Nurkić Biily Donovan got to pick who shot the free throws. He picked Skal Labissiere, who missed the first by accident and missed the second deliberately. And somehow, Markieff Morris got called for a loose-ball foul. Al-Farouq Aminu did knock down two free throws to tie it up. Russell Westbrook took the inbound, it made a beeline for the sideline, and the Blazers failed to score on the last possession.

So overtime ensued. Lillard made it to 51 points, but it didn’t make any difference: OKC outscored the Blazers 16-8 in those five minutes to win it 129-121, to sweep the Blazers 4-0, and to take sole possession of third place in the West. Paul George says he’s still working on that shoulder, but he didn’t do badly: 32 points, 14 rebounds. Westbrook finished with 37. And not enough hours from now, we resume in Los Angeles.

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