The Oklahoma City Thunder traveled to Portland to take on the underachieving Trail Blazers who continued the trend of owning the Thunder. This game was all Blazers, as the Thunder continues to struggle on the road.
The result of this game was a foregone conclusion after the first quarter when the Blazers won the opening quarter 42-26. OKC tried to make it interesting in the third quarter but the hole they dug was too deep and the Blazers answered any attempt to make this a game.
Here are 11 notes from tonight:
1) The Thunder struggled to defend the Blazers this game. Blazers scored 136 points on 52.1/ 46.7/ 100 shooting splits that included going 14-30 from three and 24-24 from the free throw line.
The Blazers were hot in the first and third quarters, scoring 42 points and 41 points respectively. Those quarters really set the tone for the type of game the Thunder were enduring. What makes this offensive explosion for the Blazers even funnier is the fact that their star duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum didn’t even have to carry the load, role players like Hassan Whiteside (21 points and 16 rebounds) and Rodney Hood (14 points on 5-6 shooting) had great performances. The Blazers came into this game with a middling 108.7 ORTG, which is ranked 13th in the NBA.
2) Speaking of Hassan Whiteside, he had a great game tonight. Finishing with an impressive 21 point and 16 rebound double-double. Steven Adams struggled defending the opposing big in the paint once again with Whiteside going 5-8 in the pain. Adams post defense continues to be an issue this season. The Blazers won the rebounding battle, 54-38, this game due to in large part of Whiteside’s presence.
3) The Thunder offense continues to struggle on the road as they only scored 77 points through three quarters.
Yes, the Thunder scored 119 points but 42 of those points came in garbage time in the fourth quarter. The Thunder have the 28th ranked road ORTG at 101.0 with the 26th ranked pace at 98.93 possessions per game. For whatever reason, this team struggles to score on the road.
4) The Thunder’s best player tonight was Chris Paul who had 16 points on 6-12 shooting with six assists. Paul had a good game but considering how bad the rest of his teammates played this game, he was easily the best player on the floor for the Thunder tonight.
5) Ex-Thunder player, Carmelo Anthony, played his first game against his former team since a two point, 1-11 shooting where his only made field goal was on a goal tend last season. That game turned out to be Anthony’s last game for the 2018-19 season. Anthony performed better this game, scoring 19 points on an efficient 9-11 shooting. Anthony was another player who exceeded under the rim tonight, going a perfect 4-4 on shots underneath the rim on drives. It was a great game for a 35 year old Carmelo Anthony who came off a 25 point performance.
6) Steven Adams has received a ton of criticism this season for his poor play with many expecting a sharp jump in his production with no star teammates anymore. But one facet of Adam’s game that has really improved this season is his passing. Adams is averaging career highs in APG (2.9) and passes made per game (45.8). Adams ended up with eight points, six rebounds and an impressive three assists.
7) Rumored Blazer trade target Danilo Gallinari had a bad tryout game tonight, finishing with just 14 points on 5-13 shooting. Gallinari has been linked to the Blazers as a potential trade target for them this season as they lack frontcourt players who score on their own and shoot. One player the Thunder could be interested on the return of a hypothetical Gallinari trade is 20 year old Anfernee Simons, who if you remember scored 37 points in the season finale last season against the Sacramento Kings. Simons is having a nice sophomore campaign, averaging 10.6 PPG, but if the Blazers are serious about contending this season then a 2019 Gallinari is definitely better than a 2019 Simons and the Thunder should note that in any trade discussions. Simons himself finished with 14 points on 6-14 shooting in 26 minutes.
8) Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had one of those growing pains games tonight, scoring 11 points on 4-10 shooting. It seems like opponents have adjusted to Gilgeous-Alexander slithery ways around the basket, he is just shooting 41.4 FG% in his previous six games and those efficiency struggles bled over to tonight. Luckily, Gilgeous-Alexander was able to impact this game in other ways, specifically with his passing where he finished with five assists this game. The scoring has been there but once Gilgeous-Alexander learns how to impact games in other ways that’s when the development of a player truly shows.
9) Damian Lillard continues to own the Thunder. After ending their season, and really the Russell Westbrook era, last year in the playoffs, Lillard scored 27 points on 7-15 shooting, including 5-9 from three. Lillard struggled in his first matchup this season against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, scoring just 23 points on 7-19 shooting, but Lillard made sure to make up for that bad performance tonight. Lillard is obviously one of the best players in the league and the most teams can do is hope to contain him but it feels like Lillard always have something extra for Oklahoma City since he came into the league. Lillard averaged 34.8 PPG and 7.8 APG on 60.9 TS% against the Thunder last season.
10) This was one of their worst games this season, getting completely annihilated from tip off to the end of the game. The game was never really close as the Blazers were hitting practically all their shots and the Thunder struggled to find any positive consistency on offense. Five of the six games where the Thunder lost a game by over five points this season have come on the road. This could be chalked up as a playoff team beating an inferior team at home like they’re supposed to do but how much weight does that hold in this case where the Thunder (6-10) had a better record than the Blazers (6-12) coming into this game?
11) Ironically, the player that has arguable received the most hate for the Thunder playing him, Abdel Nader, ended up being the leading scorer for the team tonight with a career high 23 points on 7-9 shooting which includes going 3-4 from three in just 16 minutes of action. If only this type of production didn’t come in garbage time then maybe Thunder fans would cut Nader more slack.
Next Game: The 6-11 Thunder take on the 6-11 New Orleans Pelicans in Oklahoma City on November 29th.