After an embarrassing meltdown at home two nights ago, the Thunder came into tonight’s matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers prepared to show that they’re a quality team. Oklahoma City started off hot making six of their first eight shot attempts, but due to a lack of defense, there was no separation between the Thunder and the Blazers.

The Thunder would go on to make only two of their next 14 attempts, while the Blazers would shoot a lights out 12-19 (63.2%) for the quarter. Oklahoma City would trail 20-28 after 12 minutes.

The second quarter featured some minor improvement by the Thunder as far as shooting the basketball went, but the defense continued to struggle to get stops. Russell Westbrook would lead the way, scoring nine points on 4-7 (57.1%) shooting from the floor, but the Blazers would spread the floor and share the ball as they shot 9-17 (52.9%) as Oklahoma City would trail 46-50 at halftime.

Portland would continue doing work in the third quarter, extending their lead throughout the period, but the highlight of the quarter was a confusing play that started off as an and-1 situation where Carmelo Anthony hit a layup and was fouled in the process, but after a further review, the officials changed the call to a flagrant 2 on Anthony, leading to his ejection.

While the ejection caused a lot of confusion and emotion to come into the game, the Thunder were not completely out of it. Paul George and Raymond Felton showed up in a big way, combing for 17 of the Thunder’s 21 third quarter points. After trailing by as many as 17 points with 2:28 left in the period, Oklahoma ended the quarter down 67-78.

Entering the final period of a game down by double digits is never ideal, but with a team as talented as the Thunder, nothing seems to be impossible, and that is the attitude that they had in the final 12 minutes of play. Despite shooting 0-5 in the third, Russell Westbrook rallied a comeback as he scored 12 points on 5-9 (55.6%) shooting to go along with three assists and three rebounds in the fourth. Despite the efforts by the Thunder, Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic proved to be too much as they combined for 16 points on 5-8 (62.5%) shooting in the fourth, and Oklahoma City would drop the game 99-104.

3 Quick Thoughts

  • Where’s the Consistency in Officiating? I’m not going to rail on and on about how awful the officiating was tonight. They had their moments, and it wasn’t so egregiously one-sided that it legitimately cost the Thunder the game, but the number of questionable calls was simply too many. Between Carmelo Anthony’s ejection and the lack of a review on a very physical play that involved Russell Westbrook getting hit the in face, the real issue with the officiating with the lack of consistency. It’s extremely challenging for both players and coaches alike to know what to expect whenever referees officiate a game in such a subjective manner. Without a doubt, Anthony’s flagrant 2 should be rescinded tomorrow, but the damage is already done, and the Thunder have to figure out a way to put together some wins.
  • Oklahoma City Needs to Draw the Line: If there is one area that has been an especially big surprise, it is the Thunder’s inability to rebound at the rate that they had done for so many years prior to this season. While the talent on the floor is definitely capable of pulling down rebounds, the effort still has to be there. Oklahoma City is averaging 41.9 rebounds per game, which is 23rd in the league, after averaging 46.6 per game and finishing first a season ago. Steven Adams had a rough game tonight, recording four points and four rebounds in 32 minutes, while his opponent Jusuf Nurkic put up 25 points and eight rebounds. Tonight was definitely an outlier for Adams as opposed to the norm, so look for him to have a big game on Tuesday against the Kings in Sacramento.
  • YGTMYFT: The free throw shooting woes for the Thunder continued tonight, and the age-old adage is true: you’ve got to make your free throws. Oklahoma City shot 13 fewer free throws than Portland, which is bad enough, but the Thunder went 8-15 (53.3%), while the Blazers shot 22-28 (78.6%). The biggest concern is that Russell Westbrook shot 2-7 (28.6%) from the charity stripe, bringing his season total to 29-50 (58%). After making his first two, Westbrook missed five straight, all of which came in the final five minutes of the game, including three with only 20 seconds to go. Earlier in the season, Westbrook attributed his struggles to a rule change, but with game #10 only two days away, he has to figure out something and soon.

Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.