PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — To the delight of Trail Blazer fans, the Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves right where the Blazers were at this point last postseason, in a 2-0 first round playoff series hole. The only bright spot, and it’s just a glimmer at this point, is that the Thunder have 2 games at home to get it right.
However, the way the Trail Blazers have played so far this series it’s tough to see that happening. Coming into this series, the Blazers boasted a Top-5 offense, while the Thunder could count on their Top-5 defense to carry them.
The exact opposite has happened. Portland has played a stifling brand of D and have used that to take a commanding lead in this series.
Erik Horne of “The Oklahoman,” said: “The problems for the Thunder started with turnovers. Tied 54-54 at halftime, the Thunder committed five turnovers in the first four minutes of the third quarter. When that flurry was over, the Blazers had taken the lead for good, and the Thunder had as many turnovers (eight) in the quarter as made field goals.”
The Thunder turned the ball over 16 times in Game 2, six of them at the hands of superstar Russell Westbrook and 5 more from their second-best player, Paul George.
“Starting with myself, I’ve got to play better. And tonight, the loss, I’m going to take full responsibility for tonight. Because the way I played was unacceptable,” Westbrook said in his post-match news conference.
Sinji Snope, from the fan site “thunderousintentions.com” said while giving Westbrook a “D” grade for his Game 2 performance: “Once the Blazers started getting hot and getting back into the game, Russ’ defense fell apart and so did the rest of his game. Lillard thoroughly out-played him this evening, and he needs to play like a superstar if OKC wants to bounce back from this embarrassment of a game.”
But OKC’s issues, were not limited to just turnovers. A poor night shooting, especially from 3-point range, sunk the Thunder in both games in Portland.
J.A. Sherman of “WelcometoLoudCity.com” said: “Once again, the Thunder were doomed by a game plan that has two core pillars – the high pick and roll, and offensive spacing in the corners. But just as we’ve witnessed through much of March and April, that basic system only works if the shooters can make shots. And once again, OKC failed miserably. If you’re wondering how many times (Paul) George and (Steven) Adams ran the pick and roll, putting OKC’s two best offensive players in a situation to score, my unofficial count was twice.”
The Blazers have vowed to continue that work on defense, knowing it could be the key to advancing into the second round of the playoffs for the first time since knocking the L.A. Clippers out of the postseason in 2016.