In a game where Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, and Andre Roberson sat, the Thunder came up just short to the Portland Trail Blazers, 115-120. Enes Kanter produced 33 points and 20 rebounds, and was a huge part of OKC's late game comeback. It was the first time a Thunder player had achieved a 30-20 game ever. Other role players had big nights as well. Dion Waiters had 25 points on 10 of 19 shooting, using his bulk and footwork to get near the rim. And Anthony Morrow finished with a solid 19 points, despite missing a pair of critical threes down the stretch.
But ultimately, the Thunder's offense just wasn't effective enough. Randy Foye was 3 of 13. Foye did an admirable job trying to be the starting point guard, and finished with an acceptable 4 assists to 2 turnovers. But Foye wasn't athletic enough to get to the rim, and his pull up twos are really inefficient. Furthermore, Cameron Payne left a lot to be desired. Payne is a scorer by instinct, and doesn't have the instinct to read NBA defenses on a consistent basis. So Payne can get himself caught in a lot of bad shots, especially during critical situations. Payne's 1 of 5 fourth quarter total is particularly telling. But Payne's passing ability was still there, and the Portland defense respected him enough to create. 6 assists, 0 turnovers.
Tonight was really the first time you got to compare Foye and Payne so clearly head to head. Payne clearly had the better game, but Foye was crucial in the clutch. I'm fairly sure most Thunder fans are still in the Payne camp. But I can begin to see a bit of why Donovan is grooming Foye to be a regular ball handler. There are times when Payne will just take his shot too early, and it leads to opportunities for the other team. Foye isn't perfect, but it's rare for him to bite off more than he can chew.
Anyway, the Blazers had a typically fantastic game from C.J. McCollum, but couldn't get the same type of production out of Damian Lillard. McCollum had 26 on 10-18 shooting, while Lillard had just 11 on 2-13 shooting. Lillard had to deal with a bigger defender at point guard most of the time, and the Thunder were doubling around screens a lot. But McCollum works off-ball, and once the Blazers got around the initial pressure, it was easy for McCollum to score.
Al-Farouq Aminu was able to function in much the same way, moving off-ball to get dunks and open threes. But despite the fact that Aminu finished with 27 points, only 2 of those game in the fourth quarter. The Thunder went to a more traditional defense late in the game, and that allowed Huestis to focus on his matchup. That defense, plus the veteran leadership of Nick Collison, allowed the Thunder to whittle a 17 point fourth quarter deficit down to just 8. With 2 minutes to go, OKC still had a very realistic shot at winning this game. But it just wasn't meant to be. Impressive bench performance for sure.
- As you probably know, this game doesn't matter in terms of playoff seeding. We could battle the Cavaliers for home court in the finals, but who cares?
- This was the first game Russell Westbrook sat for rest in his entire career. With 3 games left, it's unclear whether he'll surpass Magic Johnson's '88-89 triple double season.
- Steven Adams was alright, but ultimately not intimidating enough around screens. I also hope he gets a jumpshot someday, because having his defender respect him at the top of the key would really expand OKC's offense when he's on the floor.
- Josh Huestis hit both of his threes. He's looked very impressive so far. A 7'1" wingspan on a 6'7" body doesn't lie!
- Kyle Singler was 0-1 and had a steal. I saw some hustle early, but I almost forgot he played in this game. Now he knows what it's like to be ignored like Dion.
Thunder Wonder: Enes Kanter, an offensive terror when his fade and three are going
Thunder Down Under: Dion Waiters, just so much hustle!
Thunder Blunder: Kyle Singler, the forgotten one
Thunder Plunderer: C.J. McCollum, Mr. Unstoppable Floaters
Next Game: At the Sacramento Kings, Saturday, April 4th, 9:30 PM Central Daylight Time.
What did you think of tonight's game? Drop a comment and let us know!