For the first time since May 7, 2016, the Portland Trail Blazers have won a game in the playoffs. The Blazers opened up the game red hot with Damian Lillard hitting a 30-foot three-pointer and the Blazers never looked back as the Blazers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder, 104-99.
Early on in the game, it looked as if Enes Kanter would not last on the floor long as the Thunder and specifically Steven Adams attacked Kanter on almost every possession in the game. It got OKC a lead early, but then Portland went on a huge run to take a 14 point lead at the end of the first quarter with some red hot three-point shooting. The Blazers hit nine of their first eleven three-pointers.
In his first action since March 8th, CJ McCollum came out red hot and hit three, three-pointers and had a couple of really nice floaters. CJ finished with 24 points on the night.
This forced Oklahoma City to move out of the slow-paced low post offense and start to shoot more threes (where they were 5-33).
In the second quarter behind five bench players, the Blazers pushed the lead out to 19 and had Oklahoma City on their heels. From there, things went a little flat for Portland. At the end of the first quarter, Nerlens Noel elbowed Lillard in the face and Dame’s next six shots looked way off. They were really short and did not have much of a chance to go in.
The Blazers only scored 15 second-quarter points and this allowed the Thunder to cut the lead to seven points at the half. Portland had nine turnovers in that frame and that really helped OKC get back into the game.
The player of the game for Portland was Kanter though. The man came out with 20 points and had 18 rebounds. A lot of those rebounds came in a very critical fourth quarter. Oklahoma City cut the lead to one with under two minutes to go, but Portland clamped down on defense and held the Thunder at bay for the rest of the game. Kanter had some monumental boards in that time while getting beaten up pretty good. He also hit a beautiful euro-step runner to more or less put the game away in the fourth.
Damian Lillard did finish the game strong and showed no signs of being affected by the multiple elbows to the dome throughout the game. He hit an answer three after Paul George cut the Blazer lead down to one. Dame finished with 30 big points on the night.
Looking forward to Game 2, Portland is going to need to shore up the ball handling. The Blazers had 18 turnovers for the game, granted most of them came in the second quarter, but that is when OKC was able to get back into the game. It was a far fetched idea that Portland could blow out OKC, but when you have nine second-quarter turnovers and that thought it all but dead.
Also, Oklahoma City is not going to shoot 5-33 from behind the arc again this series. They are not a good three-point shooting team in general, but they are not this bad. Even a bit more modest effort from deep probably lets Oklahoma City steal this game away late.
The bench is also going to have to play a lot better. The bench only had 18 points for the game. Zach Collins seemed lost for a lot of the time he was out on the floor. Making a lot of dumb mistakes and fouls while trying to give Kanter a breather.
Stotts did make a good adjustment and kept either Lillard or CJ on the court at all times in the second half and I really do think that is what helped keep Portland in the lead.
Game 2 is on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM and will be broadcast on TNT.