After starting out slow behind the arc, the Portland Trail Blazers found their range in clutch form. CJ McCollum knocked down a triple as the half expired and Damian Lillard converted from deep before the buzzer sounded ending the third quarter. Those two plays stuck out in particular, but they did much more in a 114-94 routing of the Oklahoma City Thunder on April 16, taking a 2-0 lead in the series.
Thunder strike first
The final score indicates a rout, however it was anything but that to start the game. In fact, the Thunder led by five midway through the first quarter. Portland closed the gap but could only get over the hump three times to take the lead, only to see it taken away. Down by two with just over 2:30 left in the quarter, the Thunder put together a 9-2 run, ending out the quarter leading 31-26.
OKC’s bench scored all nine points with Dennis Schroeder scoring or assisting on all made buckets in their run. Through one quarter, Paul George and Steven Adams had six points apiece with balanced scoring from several other players. For Portland, McCollum led with 11 points while Lillard, Maurice Harkless and Zach Collins had four points apiece.
Enes Kanter was a difference maker in game one, but a couple fouls midway through the quarter sent him to the bench. Foul trouble would limit Kanter throughout the game but the Blazers didn’t need anything special out of him this time. Collins and Markieff Morris picked up double techs to end the quarter, sharing some words before being sent to their respective benches.
Buzzer Beater #1 – Magical McCollum
OKC added on with a small run and the Blazers kept chipping away. Down as many as nine points, Portland relied on the three ball and points in the paint to stay within fighting distance. With 10 minutes left in the half, OKC led by 10 before Lillard scored six straight. One minute left in the half and Harkless knocked down a big three, followed by a lay-in by Lillard. Schroeder got to the charity stripe and hit one of two, leaving the last possession to Portland.
Then, this happened.
Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the top defenders on the Blazers, picked up his third foul, as did Westbrook late in the second quarter. With about 90 seconds left in the half, Kanter also picked up his third foul, sending him back to the bench.
At the half, George led the Thunder with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists on seven of 12 shooting. Westbrook had been held to seven points but was impacting the game in other ways with five assists and three rebounds.
For Portland, Lillard and McCollum netted 16 points apiece, shooting 11-22 from the field and Lillard scored a dozen in the second quarter. As a team, the Blazers were narrowly outdoing the Thunder from behind the arc making five of 12, compared to three of 13.
Blazers take over second half
Making a run
Led by their fearless leaders, the Blazers started out the third quarter hot with an 18-10 run in the first six minutes of play. Of those 18 points, CJ and Dame combined for 10 and had the crowd behind them the whole way. Right about when their run ended, Harkless picked up his fourth foul which sent him to the bench for a bit.
As much as that dented the Blazers defense, they got some help on offense from one of their bench players. Seth Curry is just as much a threat as his more famous brother Steph. While he doesn’t take the volume of shots Steph does, Seth has been more effective from behind the arc this season.
He gave the Thunder two examples why they shouldn’t leave him wide open, hitting back to back triples to the crowd’s delight.
Westbrook picked up his fourth foul with 15 seconds left in the quarter after being called for a charge. The turnover gave Portland a chance for one more possession in the quarter, and they made good use of it.
Dame showed up McCollum’s earlier buzzer beater by attacking and hitting the step back fade-away triple, whereas McCollum was ready with feet set.
The Blazers outscored OKC 37-21 in the third quarter. Dame had amassed 27 points and McCollum had 25 points up through 36 minutes. George was leading OKC with 20 points, Adams had 14 and Westbrook only had 11 points.
Extending the lead
Entering the fourth quarter with a 16 point lead, the Blazers aimed to keep the margin and not allow OKC to make a long run. McCollum and Dame took a back seat, still running the show for much of the quarter, but let some other guys get some looks. Meyers Leonard and Curry combined for three buckets and the Thunder didn’t get within 20 until the final bucket.
Both coaches emptied out their benches with 120 seconds to go and from there it was all but over. A couple free throws by Jake Layman got him on the board for the Blazers and Deonte Burton (shout-out to Iowa State) threw down a final dunk for the Thunder.
McCollum and Dame combined for 62 points from 22-43 shooting. McCollum also had eight rebounds and five assists, while Dame added on six assists, four rebounds and three steals. Harkless scored 14 points and grabbed nine boards and Aminu had a nice stat line of six points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals. As a team, the Blazers shot 13-22 from behind the arc and 17-21 from the free throw line.
George led OKC with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Westbrook finished just shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds on a bad five of 20 shooting night. Adams chipped in with 16 points and nine boards. The Thunder shot an abysmal five of 28 from deep and made 19-28 from the free throw line.
On to OKC
Portland got the monkey off their back by winning the series opener at home. Coming into this series, the Blazers had lost 10 straight playoff games, including being swept two straight years. They’ve relied on Dame and McCollum to put up big numbers, and they have so far. Portland has also had some quality minutes and production out of the various guys they can plug in the forward spot.
The Thunder have shot awful from behind the arc in the Moda Center and haven’t had enough success from their stars. George was dinged up game one and Westbrook was limited in terms of scoring in game two. One bright spot is their bench players have come on strong when called to action. Schroeder has the ability to play like a starter, despite getting most of his minutes with the second-string players. Even down two games, the Thunder head home to an energetic fan base and it could quickly be a tied series before returning to Portland, if necessary.
The series will resume on April 19 at Chesapeake Arena and game four will be on April 21. Blazers fans are hoping their team doesn’t need to come back to the Moda Center and OKC has the hope of tying the series.