Blazers fall early in 111-95 loss to Thunder

As expected on the end of such a long and frustrating road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers (21-24) limped into Chesapeake Energy Arena to face the West’s best and division rival Oklahoma City Thunder (34-11). The Blazers had just recently walked into the United Center a few nights earlier and beat the Chicago Bulls with some hard-nosed, inspired defense; this was not the case against the Kevin Durant and the Thunder. As the story for this season goes, Portland fell behind early in the first quarter, playing little to no defense and not hitting their shots, not rebounding, not boxing out, etc. The Thunder meanwhile were getting the looks they needed and had a fairly easy time with Portland and growing their lead to as much as 20. Portland was carried in the second half by the shooting of Jamal Crawford to cut the lead down to as much as eight, but the damage was done, the Blazers finish the road trip 2-5 losing 111-95 and look forward to playing the next eight out of ten games in the comforts of the Rose Garden.

You could blame fatigue from this trip but throughout the game Portland looked just tired and beaten. There would be a carless pass here and some makes but those makes were hard to come by. LaMarcus Aldridge was one who was having getting into the groove of things and the Blazers were forced to look somewhere else for points. Joel Przybilla was active right from the start, rejecting two quality shots and some work on the rebounding. On the other side they were late to cover their man on screens and were bullied inside the paint, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins were met with zero efforts to box them out and led to plenty of second chance points. Kevin Durant had not been playing his best basketball against the Blazers in recent match ups and was probably happier that he didn’t have Gerald Wallace breathing down his neck, Durant is found a few times beyond the arc for some open threes and Russell Westbrook and James Harden just make the situation difficult for Portland’s guards. The Blazers find themselves down 31-15 after one and it would be more the same at the half, down 57-42. Which doesn’t seem that bad right? It sure felt like an absolute blowout.

Because Jonny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet wouldn’t be suiting up till Tuesday, Portland had to go to their bench early on again and keeping them in for a while, while guys like Jamal Crawford and Nolan Smith each put up some good numbers, it was a tough night for the bigs, Kurt Thomas was called for three fouls as did Craig Smith who committed some stupid fouls, one that sent Harden to shoot three free throws after he was hit on the elbow attempting to chuck a bomber to beat the shot clock and avoid a violation. Since Aldridge was having a tough go from the floor, the Blazers looked to Crawford and Raymond Felton to make this a game, in which they did and had a few 10-0 runs thanks to some Thunder turnovers, Wesley Matthews also contributed and sure enough the Blazers are only down eight as the fourth quarter starts. It proved to be too little, too late and as the fourth dragged on, Portland kept committing fouls that would send Westbrook and Durant to the line. Portland ends up losing this one and went home to their own warm beds.

Jamal Crawford scored a team high 23 Pts with 3-9 from deep and took 10-21 shots much of which was during the second half. Alongside was Raymond Felton with 19 Pts, 7 Ast and 2 Stl but had some ups and downs as well as 4 turnovers. Wesley Matthews would’ve had a much bigger impact as he was shooting pretty well for 16 Pts, 4 Stl and a perfect 3-3 from downtown. LaMarcus Aldridge was kept to 15 Pts, 6 Reb and couldn’t find the stroke, either overshooting or hitting the front rim and only hit 3-5 from the foul line. Joel Przybilla only played 24 minutes for 6 Pts and 11 Reb but looked flat in the second half, as did Nicolas Batum who scored just 6 Pts in 40 minutes.

I don’t need to explain that Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook combined for 54 points, Westbrook leading with 28 on the night. The Thunder shoot only 55% for the entire match and 11-18 from downtown. They also out-rebound 43-35, out-assist 24-15, block more shots 8-3 but are outscored in the paint 48-44. Basically besides that and going 18-28 from the foul line (which is unheard of for them), it was a solid game.

Portland easily traveled something like 6,000+ miles on this trip and thankfully(?) pull out a 2-5 record. It’s not pretty, but it’s nowhere good. They get a day to rest before facing the new-look Milwaukee Bucks (Monta Ellis anyone?) and will have to face the Thunder again next week. Check out Chuck’s ThunderObsessed blog for Oklahoma City’s view on the win.

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