Portland's injury issues
The Oklahoma City Thunder have emerged with a victory over the extremely shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers, 101-90. The Thunder certainly did their part to close the Blazers out, but Portland wasn't at their best. Losing Aldridge before the start of the game was bad enough, but the first quarter injury to Nicholas Batum and the second quarter injury to C.J. McCollum pretty much sealed the Blazers' fate. Terry Stotts was so disenthused that he opted to hold Damian Lillard and Robin Lopez out of the fourth quarter. Joel Freeland was the only starter to see any fourth quarter minutes for Portland.
OKC dominates paint
The injuries forced the Blazers bench to share the ball in crunch time. Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland ended up getting the most shots, taking advantage of the slowness of the Thunder bigs, as well as OKC's tendency to protect the rim. But Portland just couldn't win the game on jumpshots. The Blazers went 4 of 10 in the paint during the second quarter, and then went 3 of 7 in the paint during the fourth quarter. Steven Adams was on the floor for pretty much the entirety of those quarters, which explains quite a few of Portland's missed shots there.
The Thunder were also absolutely killing it on the boards. OKC won the first, third, and fourth quarters by at least 4 rebounds each time. The one exception to OKC's rebounding dominance was the second quarter. The Thunder only won the second by one rebound. At the same time, the Thunder shot only 28% from the floor enroute to only 14 points. That means the Blazers had more opportunities to rebound in general, and the Thunder's 5 offensive rebounds to the Blazers' 0 more accurately tells the tale. In other words, the Thunder were almost completely dominant on the boards from start to finish, with a couple rare exceptions.
Three players carry the Thunder offense, Dion Waiters goes 4-23
Offensively the Thunder had four primary options. Westbrook, the first option, was constantly probing around Adams for any space or advantage that he could find. Westbrook was incredibly effective for most of the game, and could get whatever he wanted against the smaller Damian Lillard. Stotts definitely did a bit of crossmatching though, and a combination of Crabbe and Gee kept Westbrook shooting just 1 of 5 in the fourth quarter.
Waiters, the second option, was pretty much doing the same, except sometimes from the weak side. Waiters was certainly a lot less effective. The Blazers always had someone to meed him in the paint, and Dion tends to make life difficult for himself in-mid-range. The pace of the game also encouraged Waiters to jack it a bit in transition, and Dion could never quite get a flow going. Neither of Waiters' second quarter steals led to points, which was just kinda symbolic of how his night went.
Enes Kanter was a much more reliable option. He tended to work off ball as well, as I believe Adams set the majority of the screens tonight. Kanter took 5 shots outside the paint tonight, but all of them were closer to the paint than the three point line. Mostly, Kanter was able to use his size to his advantage, as he tore through Portland's defense on the weak side block and via offensive boards. Kanter finished 13-20 tonight,
Perhaps the last option that the Thunder spent any time looking for was Anthony Morrow. Coming off a 5 shot performance against the Pacers, I was happy to see A-Mo get 10 shots tonight. Morrow took a couple of floaters, but mostly just stuck to straight on threes off of quick pick and rolls or in transition. Curiously, Morrow didn't take a single shot from the corner.
In any case, the strong performances of Kanter, Westbrook, and Morrow certainly carried the team offensively. No other player shot above 33%.
If OKC wins tomorrow night at Minnesota and New Orleans loses at home to San Antonio, the Oklahoma City Thunder will go to the NBA Playoffs. Kawhi Leonard will need as many minutes as possible tomorrow, right Pop?
- Russell Westbrook, when asked whether he would cheer for the Spurs Wednesday night: "You see my hat?"
- Kanter had 15 points and 8 rebounds in the first quarter, more than half of his total in each category.
- Waiters was awesome as a pickpocket and when pressuring. He had at least a couple more tips than his official steal count of three shows.
- Andre Roberson is confident with his three now. Doesn't even look awkward!
- Steven Adams was an absolute train tonight. Just bulldozing himself all over the court, diving for balls.
- OKC was 1-4 on bonus free throws in the second quarter. Steven Adams did hit two straight when hacked intentionally in the fourth quarter, though.
- Portland used a lot of motion, and loves to throw in one or two decoy passes on basic plays. It's interesting to watch, and they fooled the Thunder defense into doing what they wanted most of the time. Portland just rushed their shots sometimes, and didn't always have reliable outside shooting.
- Westbrook straight up hid behind screens on Tim Frazier. Frazier responded by going 1-3 from three, meh.
- At the end of the third quarter, OKC was up by 11. Portland had shot 49% up to that point, and had 16 assists to 11 turnovers. However, OKC had taken 14 more shots.
Thunder Wonder: Russell Westbrook, who wears a hat
Thunder Down Under: Enes Kanter, whose offense at power forward has been top notch
Thunder Blunder: D.J. Augustin, whom I wish could have a good shooting night. D.J.'s only field goal was a lame drive on Tim Frazier.
Thunder Plunderer: Joel Freeland, whom even posted up Steven Adams successfully a couple of times. Never thought I'd see that out of him!
Next Game: At the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wednesday, April 15th, 7 PM Central Standard Time.
What do you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!