What is your initial reaction to tonight's result?
Satisfaction. The Thunder dominated the first half with great team play, and beat back a few Portland comebacks with great individual play from Westbrook and Harden. The Trail Blazers got some good performances out of Hickson and Aldridge offensively, but their wings were completely ineffective, with Batum, Matthews, and Crawford combining for 10-31 shooting. But the high amount of turnovers on the perimeter and horrible post defense in the first half really killed the Blazers tonight.
What was tonight's turning point?
The Trail Blazers were actually able to get within 5 late in the third quarter, first with a Wesley Matthews three at the 4:43 mark, and secondly with a Aldridge layup with 3:50 to go. But from that point on, Russell Westbrook pretty much took the game back over, getting favourable matchups with slower Blazers bigs. He was able to make a couple of running jumpers, a sweet pull-up jumper, and throw it to KD for a three. The Thunder had pushed their lead back to 9 by the end of the quarter, and the fourth was pretty much garbage time.
What was, overall, the main reason the Thunder won?
Individual Talent. The first half run did a good job of incorporating the rest of the team, but there were exactly 4 points scored by players not named Westbrook, Harden, or Durant in the second half. In fact, Westbrook and Harden did most of the work, with Durant able to play a bit more of a relaxed game. Westbrook was consistently able to get the matchups he wanted on offense, while Harden was just lights out as a shooter.
What is a key statistic to understanding tonight's game?
The Trail Blazers only scored 1.7 points below their season average of 96.7. This indicates that the Blazers were able to get their game in offensively, but had no answers on the other end. It wasn't by any failing on the Thunder's part; rather, the Thunder were able to gamble a bit more on steals because they knew they had the firepower to do so. I wouldn't recommend this strategy in the playoffs, but it worked well here.
What does this game mean for the Thunder today and moving forward?
It means another solid division win and a season series win against the Trail Blazers. The Thunder maintain a 11 game lead on the Utah Jazz for the division lead, and a 3 game lead on the San Antonio Spurs for the Western Conference. It also gives them some confidence heading into tough games against the Lakers and Bulls.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, for saving the team in the 3rd.
Thunder Down Under: James Harden, for securing the win in the 4th.
Thunder Blunder: Kendrick Perkins, for 3 turnovers and an 0fer on offense.
Thunder Plunderer: J.J. Hickson with 21 points on 9-10 Shooting, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals in only 26 minutes.
Next Game: At the Los Angeles Lakers, Thursday, March 29th, 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time
Earlier, this article stated the Thunder were ahead of the Grizzlies for the Division lead, when, in fact, the Grizzlies are in another division entirely. This is why you don't write recaps at 6:30 in the morning.