On a career night, Russell Westbrook emptied his soul before the Chesapeake Energy Arena faithful. However, in an unforgettable encounter, his Oklahoma City Thunder fell 126-121 to a determined Portland Trail Blazers grouping.
Westbrook slashed, bounced, and sauntered his way to a career-best 58 points on 21-of-39 shooting. Unfortunately, his late attempt to tie the contest bounded off a remorseless back iron.
That costly miss would be all the separation a red-hot Blazers grouping would need to preserve victory.
In a make-or-miss league, Portland knocked down 55% of its shots while placing seven players in double-figure scoring. Reserve Allen Crabbe led Portland with 23.
Meanwhile, Damian Lillard (22) and CJ McCollum (21) checked in with 20+ point performances. A short Blazer bench combined for 49 points, and eight of the team’s eleven makes from deep.
For Oklahoma City, returning Victor Oladipo netted 16 points (4-5 3PM), and Enes Kanter added 11.
Following a season’s best 40-point opening-quarter burst, OKC’s offense cooled as its defense struggled to maneuver Portland into uncomfortable territory.
Consequently, the Blazers attacked a prone Oklahoma City rim at will while tallying 50 points in the paint. Having won three straight —and three of four this season vs. OKC— Terry Stotts’ crew (27-35) now sits 1.5 games behind eighth-seeded Denver for the West’s final playoff slot.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma City’s defense again floundered as Donovan’s bunch dropped a fourth-consecutive contest —each to below .500 iterations.
On a tough-luck night, OKC employed a full roster for the first time since Jan. 26. Unfortunately, this was not enough to rekindle Oklahoma City’s (35-29) winning spark.
- Defense: Once a hallmark of Coach Billy Donovan’s team, the Thunder has disappeared defensively in its four-game slide.
- Steven Adams: Adams (1-1 FGM, 2-of-5 FTM, 3 rebs) was caught in no-man’s-land several times on defense and left valuable points at the line in a closely-fought contest.
- Thunder Bench: OKC’s reserves lost the battle to Portland’s bench in lopsided fashion. Not only did the Blazers subs outscore Oklahoma City’s 47-25, but the Thunder reserves committed ten turnovers and appeared generally out of sorts all night.
- Russell Westbrook: Short of making a couple of late three’s, there was nothing more Westbrook could have done to will the Thunder to victory on this night.
- Andre Roberson: Roberson played hard on both sides of the ball and finished with nine points and six rebounds on 4-of-7 shooting.
- Domantas Sabonis: The kid showed heart vs. a steam-rolling Portland squad. Domas added eight points and four rebounds to his team’s cause.
- Victor Oladipo: A visibly affected Oladipo showed heart by gutting this contest out for his Thunder. Dipo made a late three to give OKC hope.
Unfortunately, vs. OKC, the Trail Blazers performed like the crew that gave Golden State fits in last spring’s playoffs.
With another loss to a team clinging to playoff life, questions now abound concerning the state of Oklahoma City Thunder basketball. While Russell Westbrook provided a memorable showing as OKC’s offense clicked, the defensive woes were undeniable.
Further, the Thunder has squandered precious opportunity to ascend the playoff ladder.
Now a daunting challenge looms for Thursday night as San Antonio enters Chesapeake Energy Arena.