Final in Portland.
✈️ on to Utah to play Jazz tomorrow night. pic.twitter.com/XDU8fC2Fot
— OKC THUNDER (@okcthunder) December 14, 2016
On the first night of a back-to-back road trip, Oklahoma City jumped off to a fantastic start in Portland by taking a 20-11 lead in the first quarter. From that point forward, good turned to bad, and bad to turn to worse as the Trail Blazers took a 32-31 lead to end the quarter. Portland then outscored the Thunder 36-21 in the second quarter to take a 68-52 lead, and the Trail Blazers never looked back. Portland won the third quarter 24-19 to take a 92-71 lead and then finished the Thunder off in the fourth to win the game 114-95.
Poor Shooting Night Dooms Thunder
For only the second time this season the Thunder shot below 40% from the field on 33/87 shooting for 37.9%. Oklahoma City started the game off hot, but things rapidly took a turn downward, and the Thunder never seemed to be able to get things going.
With Victor Oladipo out with a sprained right wrist, the Thunder needed someone to pick up the extra slack, but unfortunately, that did not happen. Steven Adams had a decent game scoring 14 points on 6/10 shooting, but no other player had much of an impact without simultaneously shooting poorly. Russell Westbrook led the Thunder in scoring with 20 points shooting 7/19 for 36.8%, Jerami Grant scored 11 points on 3/8 shooting for 37.5%, and no other Thunder play scored in double digits.
Oklahoma City also shot poorly from behind the arc by making only 8 of 27 attempts from three for 29.7%. While the Thunder are not exactly a top team when it comes to three-point shooting, they have to do much better than that if they want to be stand a chance against against a high-scoring team like the Trail Blazers.
Defense Falters as Portland Plays Team Ball
Portland has one of the top offenses in the NBA, and that was evident tonight as they spread the ball around and poured on the offense. Six different Trail Blazers finished in double digits as Portland shot 43/80 from the field for 53.8% and 8/23 from three for 34.8%. Mason Plumlee led all scorers for the Trail Blazers with 18 points on 7/9 shooting, and the dynamic duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 32 points on 13/26 shooting.
No matter what the Thunder did on defense, Portland was able to move the ball around and score at will. The Trail Blazers tallied 23 assists, which is not surprising at all based on how well they shared the basketball tonight. Lillard led the way with 9 assists, and McCollum had 4.
Victor Oladipo Was Missed…And It Showed
After Victor Oladipo sprained his right wrist in the middle of the second quarter of the game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, the Thunder managed to hold on for a solid win at home. Oklahoma City looked like it could manage without Oladipo, at least temporarily, but his presence on both ends of the court was sorely missed.
Andre Roberson was bumped to shooting guard for the night, and Jerami Grant started at small forward effectively filling in for Oladipo. While Grant did an okay job on the night, he is simply not the same player with the same impact on the game.
The Thunder often relies on Oladipo to run the second-unit offense and act as the go-to scorer while Westbrook is resting on the bench. Tonight, the offense stalled miserably while the starters were resting, and that was the initial turning point that sparked the turnaround for Portland.
On the defensive end of the ball, Oklahoma City was forced to shuffle players around, and any time that happens it is going to create issues. Lineups were on the court that have not had much time together, so players were simply incapable of playing effective basketball.
While Oladipo’s injury does not look serious, hopefully he is able to return soon, maybe even as early as the game in Utah against the Jazz. If not, Oklahoma City better be able to make adjustments quickly because another loss like tonight would be absolutely disastrous.
Thunder Head to Utah
Oklahoma City will play the second game of the current back-to-back road trip in Utah against the Jazz. Utah has not played since Saturday when they defeated the Sacramento Kings 104-84. Tip-off is set for 8 PM CST. The game will be televised on FSOK, and it will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.