The Thunder Lowdown | Game #27: Damian Lillard Catches Fire to Save Blazers from Meltdown

The Oklahoma City Thunder trailed by a lot for most of their matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, but that means nothing to a scrappy bunch who keeps playing their hardest until the final buzzer sounds. Still, despite OKC’s best efforts, it was Portland who was able to come out on top thanks to Damian Lillard catching fire from downtown.

Deficit Be Damned

Recently, the Thunder’s operating method has been start off a game with a ton of energy, take a decent lead, then letdown late to create a really close game for an exciting finish. Tonight was quite different, however, as OKC got down early and didn’t appear to have a chance at recovering.

The Thunder led very early in the game, but Portland quickly ran away a lead, going up by as many as 24 points midway through the third quarter, but Oklahoma City managed to rally and cut that deficit to just 13 points headed into the fourth quarter.

The Thunder opened up the final period with a 23-4 run to take a 5-point lead with under 5 minutes to play, and the tide had officially turned in favor of the good guys. Unfortunately, Damian Lillard caught fire, and the Blazers then ran off 12 straight points to take a 7-point lead before finishing off the Thunder 115-104.

An 11-point loss at home is rarely fun, but the big takeaway here is that no deficit is enough to bury this team. The Thunder continues to play without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and George Hill, and Théo Maledon just returned to action tonight after missing the last 4 games. Without any real offensive leader out there, OKC shared the ball well and was able to band together to create a real chance at a comeback. I’ll take that type of fight from my team any day of the week.

Dort is Due Some Respect

Luguentz Dort is tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best backcourt player on a consistent basis, so facing up with Damian Lillard is nothing new at this point in his career. As a matter a fact, until the last couple of minutes tonight, Dort has done a really good job at defending Lillard over the last year or so.

Sure, Dame finished with 31 points, but 12 of those came in the final 4 minutes and 11 seconds of the game. Yeah, he knocked down 5-of-14 three-point attempts, but he was just 1-of-10 to start.

Then there is Dort’s offense. Lu led the Thunder tonight in scoring with 23 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists. He hit the three to put OKC on the high side late in the 4th quarter after trailing for almost the entire game. On a night where OKC needed some spark, he did a little bit of everything.

So pat Damian Lillard on the back for knocking down some ridiculous shots late, but don’t put any blame on Luguentz Dort’s shoulders. His defense was spectacular, and I don’t care what stats you point to, you won’t convince me otherwise.

Thunder Unsung Hero of the Game

Mike Muscala has been quiet lately. On February 6th, Moose was having a career-game as he had already scored 22 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the floor and 6-for-6 from the free throw line by halftime. In the third quarter, he missed his next 5 shots before taking a shot to the side of the head. He entered concussion protocol immediately, missing just one game before making his return on February 10th.

Since Muscala’s return, he’s not played his best basketball. Tonight, however, he had a bit of a turnaround, as he scored 11 points off the bench, knocking down 4-of-5 shots from the field and pulling down 5 rebounds. Also, he had a team-high +/- of +14.

SEGABABA With Memphis

The Thunder can’t even go home to rest after tonight’s loss as they head out immediately on the road to Tennessee where they will take on the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday night.

The Grizzlies are fresh off an embarrassing 144-113 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, so they too will be playing in the second game of a back-to-back.

Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM and will be broadcast on Fox Sports Oklahoma. It will also be broadcast on the radio on WWLS 98.1 FM.

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