The Thunder dropped game 2 on the road to the Trail Blazers, 114-94. In a game of decidedly different trajectories between the first 18 minutes and everything that happened thereafter, the Thunder could not function in any sort of way that was able to keep pace with the Blazers. The loss drops OKC in the series 0-2, and there was not much to take away from this game other than an 0-3 deficit is now staring them in the face if they cannot rise to the level Portland is playing.
Once again, the Thunder were doomed by a game plan that has two core pillars — the high pick and roll, and offensive spacing in the corners. But just as we’ve witnessed through much of March and April, that basic system only works if the shooters can make shots. And once again, OKC failed miserably. A game after going 5-33 from three, they followed it up with 5-28. To be sure, the shots were a bit more judicious than in game one, and most of them were well-designed. But that’s now 10 makes in 61 tries, and it doesn’t really matter how well a team plays in other facets of the game. In the NBA, at this stage, if you can’t make at least a third of those 61 attempts, you aren’t going anywhere, and you’re probably getting beat pretty soundly.
Russell Westbrook had another forgettable game, the kind we saw early in this season and much of last year’s playoffs. A 5-20 shooting night with 6 turnovers is bad enough, but then you hold it up to his counterpart, there’s really not a better picture as to the way this series is going. Damian Lillard finished with 29 on 10-21 shooting including 4-8 from three. He rarely forced anything, but when he did, it found the bottom of the net. Meanwhile, his backcourt mate CJ McCollum spent 36 minutes eluding Thunder defenders and, in doing his best Stephen Curry impersonation, finished with 33 on 12-22 shooting. And there you go — Portland’s backcourt outscored OKC’s by a combined 62-21 on 22-43 shooting, compared to Westbrook and Terrance Ferguson’s 8-29.
Paul George had a better game as well, but without those release valves, he often found himself running into walls, as evidenced by his 5 turnovers. Once again Jerami Grant was overmatched and underperformed, recording only 5 points and 4 rebounds in 30 minutes. What he’s doing out there for 30 minutes is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Hopefully by game 3.
Steven Adams was really the only highlight, once again proving his interior dominance with 16-9 on 7-8 shooting. If you’re wondering how many times George and Adams ran the pick and roll, putting OKC’s two best offensive players in a situation to score, my unofficial count was twice.
The Blazers know exactly who they are, and perform in a way to highlight their strengths. I’m not sure what OKC’s strengths are at this point. They held a 9 point lead with under 7 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter. From that point on, they were outscored by 29, shot 37% from the floor and 15% from three, while hitting only 14 of 21 free throws while committing 12 turnovers.
If it seemed to you like the Blazers had solved the Thunder at that point, and this series is now taking an uneasy turn toward what last year’s playoff series against the Jazz looked like, well, you aren’t alone.