Even without their tied for second best player from last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder just have too much firepower for a team like Portland to match. That’s especially the case when Aldridge and Batum aren’t absolutely on top of their games. Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard kept it close with hot jump shooting in the first half, but the outcome of the game never particularly seemed in doubt.
Westbrook found little resistance going to the rim (five layups, the entire Blazer team failed to block a single shot while OKC racked up 44 points in the paint and 32 free throw attempts). And Durant played like Durant plays: efficient and largely unstoppable. So when Oklahoma City pulled away in the third quarter it wasn’t really anybody’s “fault” so much as a statement that this Blazer team is not built to hang with truly top caliber opposition. In the end it was a fairly ho-hum win for the Thunder where their talent differential told the story.
- Damian Lillard looked in control and didn’t try to force him. Obviously it is still early but he’s certainly working to allay concerns about his in-between game, knocking down jump shots off the dribble without hesitation and displaying a decent variety of floaters, leaners and teardrops.
- Wesley Matthews from 3 point range: 4-9. Wesley Matthews from 2 point range: 1-6. Stick to the good one and I’ll make a “really liked” category for Wesley.
- 26 three point attempts. Even if the Blazers only shot 34% from deep, the only chance of beating a superior team like the Thunder is to keep bombing and hope the high-variance strategy breaks your way. Stotts seems to understand this to an extent. Fire away!
- The rotation. Sasha Pavlovic as the high-minute man off the bench makes no sense, he is not an NBA player. He has a nine year track record as one of the worst players in the league. And it’s still not clear what the pecking order and respective roles of Hickson, Leonard, Freeland and Jeffries will be in the frontcourt alongside Aldridge (no bench player besides Pavlovic got more than 15 minutes; it is difficult to tell what the rotations will be though the insertion of Babbitt was understandable given a large deficit).
- Lillard with one free throw attempt (drawn on a jump shot) and very little in the way of defense-distorting drives into the paint. His composure is nice but taking nine two pointers outside the restricted area isn’t really acceptable even if he’s hitting those at an acceptable clip thus far. The numbers say he has to put his head down a bit more or his scoring efficiency won’t sustain itself.
- Aldridge and Batum.