Beating a team four times in a season is tough. Especially if they’re good. Especially if it’s on their home floor. Especially with a building full of very angry people.
That’s what the Thunder was up against Friday and Portland and it went very well — for a quarter. Oklahoma City came out hot, leading 30-20 after one as KD went 5-6 in the first, dropping shots from everywhere. Things looked good, things looked normal.
The tide started to turn in the second as OKC’s defense sank a bit. Regardless, the Thunder led 59-53 at halftime and mid-way through the third, held a comfortable 65-57 edge. Then it all just went to crap.
The Blazers reeled off a 15-0 run, the Thunder finished the quarter shooting 4-19 and Kevin Durant couldn’t keep the ball down to save his life. KD endured an 0-8 third quarter and finished the second half with three points on 3-15 shooting (25 points, 9-24 overall, 3-13 from 3). The Thunder offense completely ran itself out of sync, missing shots everywhere, taking long jumpers, settling for 3s, turning it over — it was rough.
Between Durant’s off night and Russell Westbrook struggling (16 points on 5-15), it was kind of a miracle that the Thunder actually had a shot at this in the fourth quarter. With four minutes left, OKC was down just five. With a minute left, Westbrook had an apparent runout to cut the game to five again, but was tabbed for an iffy foul. And even with 37 seconds left, after Durant finally drilled a tough 3, OKC was still in it, down 93-88. Really good defense, strong rebounding (17 offensive boards, 48-35 overall) and a never-say-die mentally kept OKC in the game.
But it was obvious unless Portland just handed it to them, OKC wasn’t getting over the top.
This was one of those games where you probably felt like turning off your TV every few minutes. You probably flipped over to some lame movie on FX or to the Lakers-Jazz game and swore off the Thunder for the night. But then you’d flip back over to check the score and see OKC was only down seven, so you’d pull out the “OK, get a 3 here and a stop…” A tough loss for the Thunder but not an unexpected one. OKC was walking into an angry arena, against a hungry team. It was probably kind of time for a loss. Horrific shooting as a result of poor offensive execution killed the Thunder in this one, but it wasn’t for a lack of effort.
- Let me stress again how poor the second half was. Just awful. A lot of it was the shot selection, but you really want KD to turn down a wide open 3 that he’s stepping in to? I don’t. If he’s open, I want him shooting it.
- The shame is, the Thunder played a really nice first half, especially offensively. KD had 16 at the half on 6-9 and James Harden was excellent, racking up 17 points. If the Thunder defense had played the second quarter like it did the other three, OKC probably would’ve had a double-digit lead headed to halftime.
- In that horrible stretch in the third quarter, OKC went 5:40 without a point. OKC scored 11 points in the quarter, LaMarcus Aldridge had 12.
- The box score I’m looking at says Portland turned it over only five times. Wow.
- Kendrick Perkins getting into foul trouble really hurt the Thunder. He picked up some tacky ones, but he was definitely needed inside defensively.
- Serge Ibaka qas sort of quiet for the first time in a while. Just eight points and six rebounds, but he had five blocks though.
- Maybe the biggest disappointment this season? Malik Rose’s halftime and postgame TV performances. Painful is pretty much the only word that comes to mind.
- This really seemed like a decent game to try Nate Robinson out in. The Thunder clearly needed a spark in the third quarter. Offensively, everything was a mess, mainly just because of missed shots. Maybe still Nate in there and let him see if he can rip off six straight or something. Maybe he bombs and misses a couple shots in a minute. Yank him back out and get back to it. It’s really not like the offense would’ve been any worse. But Scott Brooks is a man committed to his rotation and doesn’t like to shake things up like that.
- Have you notice how Brian Davis tries to segue everything? Like if Grant Long is breaking down a play and says, “And that’s where Serge Ibaka came over and stuffed it” and then Daequan Cook hits a 3, Davis will say “And Daequan Cook STUFFS that 3 down to cut the lead to five.” Doesn’t matter how awkward it is, he’s segueing.
- It’s hard not to give it up to KD after a game like this. He worked all night despite the bad shooting, grabbing 11 boards and playing good defense. But you know Durant isn’t sleeping tonight. He’s going to replay every one of those missed 3s in his head over and over. This game is going to eat him up.
- I don’t know what the deal is, but evidently the Thunder is the only team that fouls when they play Portland. The last game, the difference was 26-16. This one, it was 28 to 16. I’m sensing a trend here.
- The last game, it was great defense from Gerald Wallace. I didn’t really see that tonight. It was more Durant missing a lot of good shots. Too many 3s, yes, but I don’t think it was anything Portland was doing, but more KD short-arming his shot and trying to force it in.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Yeah, an air foul.”
We’ve all almost developed this invincible mindset since Perkins started playing that this team isn’t going to lose. Well, obviously that’s still possible. If Durant and Westbrook don’t play well, this team will have some problems. Luckily, that doesn’t happen very often. Again, the fact the Thunder hung tight because of great rebounding and solid defense is kind of encouraging. After a 14-2 March, it’s easy to expect great performances every night and wins, but this was a tough one coming in. Losses always stink, but some are more understandable. OKC has more to work on before the playoffs start and this tape gives Scott Brooks something to work with.
Next up: Saturday at the Clippers.