The Oklahoma City Thunder finished just short of picking up a win in a crucial game against the visiting Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday night. The Thunder struggled from the get go, and despite a valiant attempt to complete the comeback, the Blazers finished on top 108-105.
The Thunder had one of their worst starts to a game in as long as can be remembered, and the Trail Blazers took full advantage. Portland scored the first seven points of the ball game, and in less than four minutes, the Blazers had built a 14-2 lead. The Thunder trailed by as many as 17 at different points in the final three minutes of the period, and after twelve minutes of play, Portland was on top 34-17.
The game appeared to be spiraling out of control, and less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Blazers held their largest lead of the night at 38-20. A surprising jumpstart from the bench quickly turned the game around, however, as Raymond Felton and Jerami Grant combined for 20 points through the first six minutes, and with 3:47 left in the first half, the Thunder took the lead for the first time of the game at 45-44 to cap a 20-4 run.
Portland retook control of the lead, and they were able to get back up by eight points, but Russell Westbrook hit a three with just a few seconds left in the half to cut into the deficit and make it 57-52 at halftime with the Blazers on top.
Oklahoma City came out a little flat to start the second half allowing the Blazers to increase their lead to seven in the first two minutes, but the Thunder was able to keep it close throughout. With a little over three minutes left in the quarter, a brawl nearly broke out as four players ended up with technicals.
Shortly after the dust settled, the Thunder was able to get back on the high side, and it looked like they might take the lead into the fourth quarter, but Maurice Harkless was able to hit a three for Portland at the buzzer to give the Blazers an 82-80 lead with one period to play.
The fourth quarter was one for the ages as both teams battled back and forth for the entirety of the 12 minutes. The period featured five ties and seven lead changes, but the Thunder was unable to stop the Blazers from effectively rebounding the ball and knocking down clutch shots, resulting in a season sweep by Portland over Oklahoma City.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Take Care of the Little Things: Despite trailing by 18 points early in the second quarter, the Thunder did a great job of getting back in the game. In the end, it was the little things, like rebounding and finishing at the rim, that cost Oklahoma City the game. With playoffs approaching rapidly, the Thunder needs to figure some things out and do whatever it takes to get things done in order to finish out games and come away with wins.
- Shots Not Falling: Looking at the box score, it’s no surprise that the Thunder could not finish the game on a high note. Shooting 44% from the floor, including 30% from the three, against a really good offensive team is rarely going to end in a win. The biggest concern is the fact that Paul George and Carmelo Anthony combined to shoot 7/28 from the field, including 0/12 from beyond the perimeter. Both guys have struggled to shoot the ball well since the All-Star Break, but if they can turn things around, Oklahoma City will be alright.
- Playoff Positioning Is Scary: The Thunder stays in fourth in the West despite the loss tonight, but every game is so important, and this certainly doesn’t help their case. With seven games to go and six of them coming against teams in playoff position, Oklahoma City is going to have to fight hard just to pick up wins. It doesn’t help that the Thunder is at a tiebreaker disadvantage against the New Orleans Pelicans and the Minnesota Timberwolves, both teams that are within reach of catching the Thunder. Simply put, Oklahoma City has to take care of business and win games, or they could be spending more time on the road than at home to start the playoffs.
San Antonio Stroll
The Oklahoma City Thunder has a couple of days of rest before they take on the Spurs in San Antonio on Thursday. The Spurs are currently in sixth in the West with a 43-31 record, and Oklahoma City holds a 2-1 advantage over San Antonio on the season. Tip-off is set for 7 PM CT and will be televised on TNT. The game will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter & Instagram, and like us on Facebook.