Oklahoma City vs Portland Game 3: Five Thoughts
By Alberto Bodei, Staff Writer
Last night, the Oklahoma City Thunder defeated the Portland TrailBlazers and kept the series alive, 120-108 the final score.
After a terrible performance in game 2, Russell Westbrook promised a better one in game 3, and he delivered it. He controlled the tempo, stayed aggressive on both ends of the floor, and shot the ball particularly well.
It wasn't only Westbrook, but also the supporting cast stepped up and made shots. Jerami Grant was excellent, and Terrence Ferguson provided solid minutes despite being in foul troubles.
In the first half, both teams played a pesky defense, missed a lot of shots, and turned the ball over at a high volume. Oklahoma City led by ten points at the long break, but in the third quarter, both defenses disappeared (43-37 Blazers). Damian Lillard took over and brought the Balzers back into single digit distance. However, Oklahoma City responded to every Portland's run in the fourth quarter and kept the visiting team at safe distance down the stretch.
Russell Westbrook, promise kept
After game two, Russell Westbrook called his performance unacceptable, as he promised to do a better job in game 3. He did and the Thunder won. Westbrook played excellent in all the aspects of the game. He didn't force on offense, took smart shots, and sure he did talk a lot of trash with Lillard, but this time he backed it up. The former MVP finished the game with thirty-three points (11-22 FG, 4-6 3PT, 7-8 FT), eleven assists, five rebounds, one block, and five turnovers (all in the first half).
Jerami Grant, home sweet home
The Thunder missed Grant's offense terribly in the first two games. But last night, he showed what he is capable of. Grant scored eighteen points and shot the ball lights out. Six out of seven from the field, four out of five from behind the arc, and two on two from the FT line. Grant's athleticism helped also on the defensive end. Oklahoma City needs him to keep doing this in game four in order to keep the series alive and to gain confidence one the team is back on the road for game 5.
Dennis Schröder, the sixth starter
The importance of Dennis Schröder to this team sometimes is overlooked. When the German point guard plays well the Thunder usually end up with a win, when he doesn't, they struggle. Yesterday, Dennis had a great impact on both ends of the floor. Not only he did a solid job defensively on Lillard, but he was also effective on the offensive side of the court. He took advantage of Kanter in the pick and roll (finally) and kept the Thunder afloat when Portland was pushing to stay in the game.
Oklahoma City has been shooting the ball horribly from behind the three-point line in the first two games. They made only ten baskets on sixty-one attempts. In game three, probably also thanks to the home court advantage, they made up for it: 15-29 3PT, 51.7%. Obviously, it won't be a sustainable number for this Thunder team going into game four, but it might force Portland to adjust defensively, and this would be optimal for OKC. If the Blazers decide to close out on the three points line, then the Thunder will have a better chance at attacking the basket.
Old School Rivalry
Thunder vs Blazers, Westbrook vs Lillard: a beautiful old school rivalry. I love this type of basketball, especially during the playoffs when every meeting counts even more. It's something we don't see much nowadays, and I think that not only is entertaining, but it gives that little extra to the game. Obviously, it's all good and fun when it is just words, some baby rocking, and maybe some hard fouls. All in the spirit of a healthy rivalry.
Game 4 between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trailblazers will be on Sunday night. Tip-off 8.30 pm CT.