The Same Story: OKC Didn't Succeed In Roberson's Absence

By: A. Suave Francisco

It was the same result for the Thunder on Tuesday after they failed to stop the Portland Trail Blazers without their star player. 

Oklahoma City fell, 117-106, to the short-handed Trail Blazers in familiar fashion. They lacked the defense they've been playing with all season, committed too many costly turnovers in the beginning stages of the game and got misused in the paint. 

The contest began with poor defense as Portland got off to an 11-6 start in the first three minutes of the game, including six easy points for center Jusuf Nurkic. Steven Adams historically has complications guarding Nurkic and that showed tonight. Nurkic finished the game with 20 points and eight rebounds on 8-of-15 shooting. 

It's not fair to point the finger primarily at Adams, though. Three other Portland starters scored at least 20 points including a game-high 27 from CJ McCollum, which still wasn't what killed the Thunder. It was Damian Lillard's replacement, Shabazz Napier, who averages a measly 9.2 points per game for the season that made the ultimate difference. His efficient 21-point game on 5-of-10 shooting really hurt the Thunder. His ability to manipulate Oklahoma City's defense into fouling him resulted in 10 free throw attempts and he drained nine of them. 

Offensively, things didn't start well for the Thunder and especially Paul George who failed to get the ball in the basket until the 9:25 mark of the second quarter. He started 0-for-5 but after a technical foul following a personal foul, George went on an offensive tear, shooting 6-of-7 for 15 points in the quarter. 

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The third quarter belonged to Carmelo Anthony who scored 12 of his 19 points. In the first half, Anthony only connected on two of his eight attempts and was as much of a non-factor as he's been all season. Russell Westbrook also chipped in with eight of his 22 points coming in the third quarter as well. Westbrook finished the game just one rebound shy of his 15th triple-double with 22 points, 12 assists, and 9 rebounds. 

Portland led OKC 54-50 at halftime and there wasn't a doubt that the Thunder would turn things up and end up with a victory. That was until the Trail Blazers outscored them 34-26 in the third quarter and entered the final 12 minutes with an 88-76 lead. With all the momentum in Portland's favor, Oklahoma City failed to make stops on defense and despite a 30-point quarter, Portland's 29 points were enough to put away OKC. 

Without Andre Roberson, the Thunder simply aren't very good. It's been proven and despite how much the Thunder score they have to play up to their full potential defensively to defeat playoff teams. They'll get an opportunity to do that on Wednesday night for the second half of this back-to-back against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team the Thunder already have an extensive history with this season. 

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