What can you say about this one? If basketball games were three and half quarters long, Portland might have been able to walk off the court Thursday night winners against the NBA’s newest up-and-comers, and one game closer to owning that tie breaker when it comes down to counting wins and losses at the end of the season, which it will. Of course, there’s that fourth quarter, and Thursday night, followed by that overtime, and just like that, the Blazers let one they could have easily had, and most definitely will need, slip away.
Portland started out flat for the second night in a row. Not a good way to go at a team that’s dropped two in a row, one to the Clippers for that team’s first win of the season, and a team that coming into the season has all been handed the Western Conference Finals. Luckily one Blazer came to play. LaMarcus Aldridge scored all but two of Portland’s first dozen points. Connecting on a couple nice alley-oops. Oklahoma City held the lead after one quarter, 29-23, but at the start of the second quarter things began to change for the home team. The second quarter was straight offense for the Blazers, outscoring the Thunder 35-22, turning a six point deficit into a seven point lead. Aldridge and Nicolas Batum finished the half with 14 points each.
The third quarter was both good and bad for Portland. Batum pushed the Portland lead to 13 early in the quarter, but it wouldn’t hold. The Blazers went into relaxation mode somewhere in the middle of the third, relying on outside jumpers and expecting that Oklahoma City would quietly go away. Maybe the Thunder of a few seasons ago would have, maybe before Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant were gold medalists and before Durant was given MVP in waiting status by paid writers across the land, but not this Thunder team. They’re hyped to the nth degree, don’t get me wrong about that, but they’re hyped for a reason. These young men can score points. Led by Durant and Westbrook, OKC closed the lead to 81-75 going into the night’s final frame.
Jeff Green, James Harden, and Durant scored the first three buckets of the fourth quarter, in that order, and the game was tied at 81 a piece. Portland never surrendered the lead in the last 12 minutes, getting it back to as high as five with 2:10 to play, but it was close enough that one or two bad possessions in a row could have swung the game heavily in the favor of the Thunder. Andre Miller hit a layup off an offensive rebound with 18 seconds to play, giving the Blazers their last lead of the night at 100-98. A tip in by Serge Ibaka, and a missed shot by Brandon Roy at the buzzer, and without Portland have trailed in the second half the game was headed for overtime.
The extra period was atrocious on both ends, but worse for Portland. Miller missed an easy layup, there were turnovers and bad shots. Although the Blazers were in it until almost the final possession, a running dive at the rim by Wesley Matthews almost produced the and one of the century, going almost the entire five extra minutes without a bucket sealed Portland’s fate.
The Blazers will have a chance to get this one back almost immediately, traveling to Oklahoma City on November the 12th. The taste of this game will still be there in a week, as it should be. Hopefully that will make a difference.
Some very brief thoughts:
- LA looked great in the beginning, and slowly fell off. Aldridge had 14 points in the first half, 10 in the first part of the first quarter, and finished with 22 points for the game. LA got his early by attacking the basket, mostly on lob feeds for dunks. In the second half he settled for a lot more long range jump shots. If LA wants to build on the work he’s done so far in his career, if he wants to see some incline from his current plateau, he needs to attack the basket the whole game. I hate to say it, but the best offensive big man on the floor Thursday night was Serge Ibaka. Also, the Marcus Camby to LaMarcus Aldridge high low is AMAZING!
- Russell Westbrook is good at getting rebounds. When these two teams meet again, every player in a Blazer uniform should block out Russell Westbrook every time a shot goes up.
- Portland started Thursday with 16 on the roster, and ended it with 14. At game time there were only 13. After feeling lightheaded following the Chicago and Milwaukee games Fabricio Oberto decided it was time to hang up the sneakers. Oberto retired after playing only five games as a Portland Trail Blazer. I’m not sure, but that is probably close to the shortest Blazer career in history. A professional on many levels, Oberto signed an addendum to his contract, turning it from guaranteed money to non-guaranteed. In short, he gave the money back. Portland will immediately begin looking for big men to fill the gap until Joel Pryzbilla returns, which will be later this month. Prior to Oberto’s unexpected retirement, Portland lost rookie Elliott Williams to a season ending knee injury that will require surgery. Williams’ surgery is related to an existing condition, and not the voodoo curse that follows around anyone who dares to wear the black and red. Just before game time, Rudy Fernandez was scratched, due to a sore back. One shot of the Blazer’s bench showed how thin this team really is. It reminded me of last season, and not in a good way.
- Kevin Durant played 52 minutes, scored 28 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Yes he is good.
Portland is back at the Rose Garden Saturday night to face the Toronto Raptors.
Check out Thunderous Intentions for their side of the story.