The Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers were locked into another intense game on Sunday night. Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic combined for 83 points to give the Blazers a 103-99 victory over a suddenly struggling Thunder team. The Thunder fought back into this game after trailing by double digits most of the game, but in the end their own mistakes did them in.
In the first half, the Thunder gave up too many easy baskets to Nurkic and Lillard in the paint. Lillard lived in the paint, continuously forcing Steven Adams to switch onto him off pick-and-rolls and got whatever he wanted once he got into the lane. When he did not finish at the rim, he would just dish it off to Nurkic for the finish. Lillard had 10 assists at the half. The Thunder stayed right in the game as they fought back each time the Blazers made a run, despite offensive struggles. The Thunder only trailed 50-46 at the half.
In the third quarter, the game started to get chippy, but the Blazers that got a majority of the calls. Lillard took as many free throw attempts as the entire Thunder team (15). But in a play that will likely earn a league review and a thousand twitter comments, Carmelo Anthony got ejected in the third quarter on a very questionable call. Melo drove baseline and drew contact from Nurkic to convert a very NBA standard and-1 basket plus foul. However, the officials reviewed this play after Nurkic was knocked down, considered Melo’s unintentional contact as both players were in mid-air, and surprisingly reversed the call into a flagrant-2 foul, which led to Melo’s automatic ejection. Watch below.
The Thunder trailed by 11 after three quarters but the Thunder came storming back. A jumper from Russell Westbrook brought the score to 87-84 with 3:41 remaining. Westbrook nailed another jumper to pull the Thunder within 2 at 90-88. McCollum came back and knocked down a three, George returned the three on the next possession, and McCollum drained another three in a wild exchange that brought the score to 96-91 with 1:04 remaining.
There were numerous missed opportunities tonight for the Thunder, especially in crunch time. Westbrook was fouled on a three point attempt with the Thunder trailing by four, but shockingly missed all three free throws. The Thunder forced a turnover trailing by three, but could not hang onto the ball and gave it right back to the Blazers. Lillard finished off the Thunder at the free throw line as the Blazers claimed the victory.
The Thunder shot 44% from the field and connected on 11 out of 33 three point attempts. They forced 24 turnovers and assisted on 17 out of 39 made field goals. However, the Thunder gave up 48 points in the paint and got hammered in the rebound battle, 43-32. The Thunder also missed opportunities at the free throw line, shooting 8-of-15 (53.3%).
Lillard had an impressive 36 point and 13 assist performance on the night and also made all 15 of his free throw attempts. Nurkic scored 25 points and 8 rebounds on 11-of-14 shooting. McCollum chipped in 22 points and connected on 6 of 9 threes, including several back-breakers as the game wound down.
George led the Thunder with 27 points on 10-of-21 shooting. Westbrook had an uneven outing with 25 points with 9 assists and 6 rebounds, but missed five crucial free throws with the game on the line. Melo scored 15 points before being ejected. Felton scored 15 points off the bench.
The Thunder return to action on Tuesday night on the road against the Sacramento Kings.