With LaMarcus Aldridge resting, and the rest of Portland’s starters playing limited minutes, it was hard to see the Blazers coming out of Oklahoma City with a win. Combine that with the fact that it was a absolute must-win for the Thunder, and a win seemed darn near impossible. The Trail Blazers got themselves into an early hole that they would never recover from on Monday night, falling 101-90 to the Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
For the first five or so minutes of the first quarter, it looked like this might be a close, back-and-forth contest. Meyers Leonard got off to a great start, but picked up two fouls in just three minutes of play, sending him to the bench for the majority of the quarter. Once Meyers exited the game, everything seemed to fall apart for the Trail Blazers (this is something that I never expected to write). Oklahoma City would go on a 15-2 run that lasted just over four minutes, establishing a sizable lead. The Thunder shot just three percent higher than the Blazers did in the quarter, but still led 35-21 after one. This can be almost entirely attributed to the fact that OKC out-rebounded the Blazers 19-6 in the period, allowing them to take seven more shots than the Blazers did. Nicolas Batum went down with an apparent knee injury late in the first, which was by far the most noteworthy part of the quarter. Batum went straight to the locker room to get x-ray’s, which fortunately came back negative.
In a lot of ways, the second quarter was just a continuation of the first. The Trail Blazers continued to struggle on the boards, but managed to out-shoot the Thunder. The Portland defense held Oklahoma City to just 14 points in the period, but weren’t able to take full advantage, scoring just 21 of their own. Portland’s reserves outscored the Thunder by seven in the quarter, cutting the 16-point lead to just seven at the break.
The third quarter felt a lot more like a typical Blazers/Thunder game. It was played at a faster pace, and the teams scored far more points than they did in the second. Portland’s rebounding woes continued, and would ultimately cost the Trail Blazers the game. Oklahoma City outscored Portland 32-28 in the period, taking an 11-point lead into the final quarter.
Despite the result, I was very impressed with the Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter. With nothing left to play for, it would have been easy for Portland to lay down and accept a loss. OKC’s season was on the line, and the Trail Blazers’ reserves still made them play to the final buzzer. The lead was cut to as few as six multiple times, but the Blazers were never able to get over the hump and regain the lead. OKC would ultimately come away with a win, keeping their playoff hopes alive.
Meyers Leonard led the way for the Trail Blazers, scoring a career-high 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Joel Freeland added 16 points on 8-of-13 shooting.
With the loss, the Blazers fall to 51-30 on the season, and 19-21 on the road. Portland is locked into the four seed, but we won’t find out who the Trail Blazers will face in the first round until the final day of the season.
- Shooting percentage: Portland 46% — OKC 40%
- Three point percentage: Portland 35% — OKC 19%
- Free throws: Portland 6-9 — OKC 19-27
- Rebounds: Portland 35 — OKC 58
- Assists: Portland 22 — OKC 14
- Points in the paint: Portland 36 — OKC 52
- Fastbreak points: Portland 6 — OKC 16
- Bench points: Portland 48 — OKC 15
- Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland both set career-high’s in points tonight.
- Meyers Leonard made four three-pointers for the first time in his NBA career.
- Damian Lillard became the fifth NBA player to score 1700+ points and dish 500+ assists this season. (Harden, James, Curry, Westbrook)
- Damian Lillard became the second Blazer ever to score 1700+ points and dish 500+ assists. (Drexler)
- Damian Lillard reached a new career-high for points in a season.