With Oklahoma City frozen in arctic temperatures on Tuesday, it seemed as though the Thunder’s date with the Grizzlies may have never come to fruition — however after discussions it was ruled the show must go on. The Thunder may have wanted this game back however as the frigid temperatures in the city projected onto the floor, falling to the Blazers 115-104. For the Thunder, this loss slid themselves into the 14th seed in the west with a 11-16 record. For Portland, their red-hot performance as of late continued, pushing their winning-streak to five, moving themselves to the 4th seed in the conference for a 17-10 record on the year.
The first period was highlighted between patches of runs. The game started upon a Thunder 5-0 run, with the Blazers responding on a 7-0 stretch of their own. Neither side planted any sort of early footing in the period shooting in the low-forties in the first eight minutes, but the last four showed a much different story. Portland capped off on a 14-4 run on 6-of-9 shooting to take hold of a 34-21 lead through twelve, as the Thunder shot a desolate 1-of-8 to close things.
Oklahoma City pivoted to more traditional 1-through-5 basketball with the addition of Theo Maledon to the rotation, seeing far less cuts than fans have been accustomed to as of late. The offense centralized to frontcourt players in Darius Bazley and Al Horford, who combined for 17 of the teams first 21 points on 6-of-10 shooting — the other members of the team shot just 1-of-13 for perspective.
Luckily, for the Thunder, Damian Lillard had no clear sidekick in the first, having to produce 12 points in the period — but pressure got eased off the 30-year-old in the second. Lillard went scoreless in the quarter on two tries, picking up his fourth foul in the process, but despite that the Trail Blazers’ supporting cast managed to outscore the Thunder 30-29 in the period, sitting on a 22-point pedestal at their highest moment. Anfernee Simons swapped in for Lillard, cashing in on 9 points off all triples in the period, while forwards Derrick Jones Jr. and Nassir Little chipped in 5 points.
Oklahoma City found themselves in a 64-50 hole due to the sheer polarization of the Trail Blazers implementation from deep. The Thunder have prided themselves the last week holding team’s to a combined 11-of-45 (24%) shooting from downtown in the first half of their past three games — Portland? They shot 10-of-22 (45%.) The Blazers’ rigorous exploitation of something the Thunder thought was locked-down pressed them into jacking up 16 threes, knocking down just 5.
With the addition of Damian Lillard to start the second half, Portland grew their lead to 24 points, a near impossible mountain to scale in the paltry time allotted. Oklahoma City made the best of their situation, piecing together a 14-3 run in the sunset stages of the third, off seven-straight made shots, shortening the distance to 11.
Mark Daigneault rolled out a novel lineup of Diallo, Jackson, Bazley, Roby, and Mike Muscala to commence the final act of the night, and it could not have gone any better. The Thunder’s distinctive five drilled a 13-2 run to make things a one-possession game with eight to go, and the swappage of Muscala for Horford continued the spiral-effect taking their first lead since 10-to-9 off a 21-4 run.
Damian Lillard and the rest of his entourage were not to fond of the Thunder’s new-found success. Portland put all their trust into the three when it came to clutch-time — needless to say, it paid off. The Blazers’ players became machines from long-range, hoisting up six threes in the final five minutes, draining all of them. For Oklahoma City, there only chance to compete relied on offense, but they found themselves caught under the weather, shooting just 0-of-6 to end the night.
Even though the Thunder fell short of the goal-line, their resiliency and brief accomplishment of sizing above a 24-point hole demands respect. Oklahoma City netted five men in double-digits, but no singular player should assume all the credit, with the team producing 62% of field goals off assists . Lu Dort looked beautiful across his 36 minutes, juicing up 23 points (8-of-18 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. The sophomore had one of his greatest night’s of the year, snapping his six-game cold-spell of shooting 11% from three going 3-of-9 outside. Hamidou Diallo looked as per usual, stringing togther 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting, but posted a pleasant defensive effort with a steal and a block a piece. Darius Bazley and Al Horford slowed down from their hot first quarter, finishing with 14 and 12 respectively, however they both showed a grave deal of tenacity inside and became major distributes handling 9 assists. Mike Muscala shot an illustrious 4-of-5 for his 11 points off the bench, but Roby may have taken the cake for the most impactful bench piece. Isaiah Roby served up the teams only double-double with 11 points (4-of-5 FG) and 10 rebounds on 24 minutes, stretching out the floor and being a major benefactor in the team’s turning-points of the game.
The Thunder’s everyone-eats approach set up great games for the majority of their roster — but it may have actually led to their demise. Portland put all their trust into Lillard since the inception of the game, and though he had a rocky 2-of-10 slump in the game, he showed up when it mattered. Damian Lillard tallied points, rebounds, and assists across minutes in the game, and was the integral reason in why his team took the victory hitting 4 of Portland’s last 6 shots, all from deep. Enes Kanter helped play sidekick to Lillard, but not as a scorer. Kanter racked up 21 rebounds (7 offensive) in the game, helping to drive the team in the rebound battle 54-46.
The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-16) will have feeble time to prepare for their next game, as they play their next game tomorrow against the Memphis Grizzlies (11-12) — in Memphis.