For the first time in nearly 5 years, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland 111-109.
The Thunder and the Blazers went at it in the first quarter like the two Western Conference heavyweights that they are. The period featured 5 lead changes and 4 ties, but neither team shot particularly well. Paul George led the Thunder with 13 points, and Russell Westbrook had 8 of his own, but Jusuf Nurkic had 12 points for the Blazers, and Damian Lillard added 9 points and 4 assists. Despite Portland leading by 7 at one point, the Thunder was able to fight back and tie it all up at 28-28 to end the quarter.
Both teams started off the second quarter hot, especially the Blazers, who hit their first 6 shots of the quarter to give Portland a 42-37 lead. OKC was able to answer with some scoring here and there, but the Blazers picked the Thunder defense apart to lead by 11 at one point late in the period. Paul George continued to pour on his scoring as he finished the half leading all scorers with 21 points, but Portland had the 62-57 advantage at the half.
The third quarter featured a lot of the same back and forth from the first half, but Paul George and Russell Westbrook continued to pour on the scoring. The duo scored 14 points apiece as the Thunder outscored the Blazers 36-25 in the period to take a 93-87 lead into the fourth.
After shooting 1-8 through the first three quarters, Dennis Schröder found his shot to start the fourth quarter as he hit 3-4 to score 6 consecutive points for the Thunder in the first 3 minutes of the final period. OKC led 99-91 at that point, their largest lead of the night at the time, and Portland had no other choice but to call a timeout.
The Thunder kept their foot on the gas pedal and pushed the lead to double digits at one point with just a few minutes left in the game, but a few questionable foul calls against the Thunder defense paired with some bad offense allowed Portland to get within striking range at the end. Down by 2, the Blazers grabbed a rebound off a missed Westbrook shot with 22 seconds left on the clock, but they were unable to hit, and Paul George hit a couple of free throws to put the game away for good, and for the first time in nearly 5 years, the Thunder defeated the Blazers in Portland 111-109.
Thunder Player of the Game
Nerlens Noel earns Player of the Game honors after playing some incredibly clutch minutes as he contributed heavily to tonight’s win. Noel finished the game with 10 points on 4-4 shooting and 5 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in just 14 minutes. His defensive play was crucial to the Thunder’s comeback win in the second half, and despite playing limited minutes this season, Noel has consistently been ready to go as soon as he comes off the bench, and that was definitely the case tonight.
3 Quick Thoughts
- Road Success Continues: With the win tonight, the Thunder moves to 12-9 on the road, which is the best road record in the Western Conference. Last season, OKC barely finished over .500 on the road, but they appear to be well on their way to a better record this season.
- 3rd Quarters are Key: Coming into tonight’s contest, the Thunder had the best +/- in third quarters so far this season, and tonight’s performance in the third was no different. OKC outscored Portland 36-25 in the period, which fueled the Thunder to a 6-point lead headed into the fourth. After taking that lead, they never looked back.
- Stay Patient with Shooters: The focus as of late has been on Russell Westbrook’s shooting woes, but he’s not the only one that has struggled. Dennis Schröder has had a tough stretch of shooting lately as well, and through the first three quarters, he was only 1-8. He came alive to start the fourth quarter, though, and his ability to score helped keep the Thunder’s lead in tact. Several other guys had rough shooting night tonight, including Steven Adams, who is typically pretty reliable. Still, he had a couple of clutch buckets in the final minutes, and that just goes to show that no matter how poorly a game is going, guys have to keep playing and stay ready for scoring opportunities.
After a brief West Coast road trip, the Thunder is headed home where they will host the Washington Wizards on Sunday evening. The Thunder smacked the Wizards 134-111 in the first meeting of the season between these two teams back on November 2nd, and things have not really improved for Washington since then. The Wizards are currently 15-24 on the season and 3.5 games out of playoff position.
Tip-off is set for 6 PM CT and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio at WWLS 98.1 FM.
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