Author - Chuck Chaney

Are you worried after Game 1?

The Thunder dropped Game 1 after shooting an abysmal 5-of-33 from deep. People not named George and Ferguson went 0-of-16 from deep. The team couldn’t stop Enes Kanter.. and the rest was history.

Teams that win the first game of a best-of-seven series at home go on to win the series 76.6% of the time (98-30).

NBA teams who trails 1-0 on the road are 120-267. So, historically, this is an uphill battle for the Thunder.

Despite being just 4-4 after losing Game 1, the Thunder are 3-5 in those series. They’ve come back from being down 2-0 once, in 2012 against San Antonio. They have never been swept in the playoff (since relocation).

Are you worried about the Thunder going forward in the series?

Are you worried after Game 1?

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Thunder Digits: Thunder drop Game 1

The Oklahoma City Thunder dropped Game 1 in Portland. The Trail Blazers, who were favored by 3½ to start the game, did what they should’ve to take care of business. For the Thunder, it’s all about stealing Game 2. With that said, here are some Thunder’s by the numbers:

18

Oklahoma City allowed Enes Kanter to pull down 18 rebounds

7

Seven of those 18 were offensive.

28

The Thunder missed 28 three-pointers in their loss to Portland in Game 1.

44

The Portland Trail Blazers shot 44 percent from three (11-of-25).

37

Oklahoma City’s bench which is probably one of the most important keys to the Thunder’s series success, went 10-of-27 from the field, only 37 percent.

1

Russell Westbrook finished with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his ninth career playoff triple-double. He’s now sixth all-time in playoff triple-doubles. Magic Johnson is No. 1 with 30.

2

Only two Thunder players hit threes tonight, Paul George and Terrance Ferguson. George was 4-of-15; Ferguson was 1-of-2. The rest of the team went 0-of-16.

19

The largest lead by Portland. It came midway in the second quarter when Portland went up 47-28 with 9:41 to go in the second quarter.

87

The Thunder shot an impressive 87 percent from the free throw line, going 20-of-23. Adams, Schröder and Morris all had the misses. Russell Westbrook went 8-of-8 at the line.

6

There are six games left. This is only Game 1. No need for over reactions. Just let Oklahoma City take care of business going forward and this game will be an afterthought.

 

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Thunder Playoff Game Day #1: at Portland Trail Blazers

Series is tied 0-0

Sunday, April 14 :: 2:30 p.m. CST :: Moda Center (19,980)
TV Coverage: Fox Sports Oklahoma (DirectTV 675, Cox 37, HD 722, Tulsa Cox 27)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 3½-point underdog. The over/under is 225.e
Online StreamWatch ESPN | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Blazers: here

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson & Lisa Salters will have the call on ABC.

SCOUTING THE ENEMY

  • The Portland Trail Blazers went 53-29 on the season, finishing third in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Trail Blazers went 8-2.
  • In their last game, Portland overcame a 28-point deficit, beating the Sacramento Kings 136-131 on April 11.
  • Oklahoma City swept Portland in the regular season 4-0.
  • All-time the Thunder are 120-116 against the Blazers.
  • Since relocating to Oklahoma City, the Thunder are 22-22 against Portland.
  • The Thunder are 2-8 in their last 10 games at the Rose Garden.
  • Portland and the Thunder are tied 2-2 in playoff series wins. Haven’t met since 1991.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Jusuf Nurkic (leg) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Portland came on March 24, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 103-83 (20-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (35 points) vs. Portland occurred during a 107-72 loss on April 3, 2009.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out.

UNIFORM WATCH



Keys to the Game

Rebeounding

With Nurkic out for the season, the Thunder have to find a way to beat the Blazers on the boards. If Oklahoma City comes out, beats the glass with the toughness we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, the Thunder are going to find themselves in the win column early on.

Bench

Oklahoma City’s bench has been super inconsistent. They need Dennis Schröder and Nerlens Noel to step up and do their thing. If Oklahoma City’s bench is invisible, it will probably force Westbrook and Co. to be overworked and maybe try to do too much. If they show up, we could be in a good spot.

Defend the three

The Blazers shot less than 29 percent from three in the four games against Oklahoma City. That’s a credit to the Thunder’s fantastic defense. The Thunder need the defense from pre-ASB to show up. With Lillard and CJ being the sharp shooters they are, limiting their impact is imperative.

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Five storylines to watch

The Thunder and the Blazers are set to tip-off off in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs and there are a lot of story lines for both teams, but you know, Thunder website and all, we’re going to do our best to check out the top five storylines for your Thunder brodies.

George’s shoulder

George has been day-to-day on the injury report with that shoulder that’s been nagging him since just after the All-Star Break. Oklahoma City needs George for this series, and frankly going forward. He leads the league in real plus/minus. They’re Suns bad when he’s off the floor. There’s a reason why he was up for MVP for a large part of the season. The Thunder need a guy who averaged 38 points against the Trail Blazers in the regular season. Any games he misses and the Thunder win, you can consider a steal.

Portland’s 3-point shooting

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are two of the scarier 3-point threats in the NBA. However, Oklahoma City did a great job in their four meetings, holding Portland to under 29 percent from deep. Most of the games, three of the four, were played before the All-Star break. So, this is a different Thunder team from then. Oklahoma City needs to do the same kind of 3-point defense we saw in the regular season. That’ll be even more paramount as the series progresses. If Oklahoma City can jump up and take a series advantage, you may see Portland just start chucking threes, in hopes of getting back into the series.

Billy Donovan’s rotations

Donovan’s rotations throughout the regular season are very fluid. He’s always trying to work and find what is the best for the team, or as we would hope so. The Thunder need some consistency and that starts with the rotations. Will Donovan find his set of guys? He did run the starters a few extra minutes down the stretch. This could be a playoff primer? That remains to be seen. Oklahoma City’s rotations have to be solid.

Who steps up?

Sure, Westbrook and George are going to ball out. Who else is going to step up? You’re going to need a third or even fourth guy step up in this series. Is that Terrance Ferguson? Maybe it’s Dennis Schröder or even Markieff Morris. It’s unsure. My bet is on Schröder stepping up but the Thunder need someone to be that wildcard that forces Portland to move some of their defenders around, freeing up some more for George and Westbrook.

Westbrook’s emotions

We talked about it in our three things to watch, but it’s real. Westbrook’s distaste for Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers has not gone unnoticed. He’s called Jusuf Nurkic a clown. He barked continuously at Lillard to the point Lillard said he doesn’t even acknowledge Westbrook on the floor. This series is bigger than Westbrook. He has to keep his emotional IQ up. He cannot let the Blazer get him riled up to the point where he’s trying to prove he’s the best player on the court.

Playoff P

George, we’ll be honest, struggled against Utah last season. It’s been a point of contention for the Defensive Player of the Year candidate. George’s woeful percentages against Utah have to be looming as he’s said it’s one of the reasons he returned to Oklahoma City. He said he had unfinished business. Oklahoma City likes that attitude but which George will we see? The one that was pushing for MVP and nuclearing teams? Or will it be the George who’s struggled shooting threes, only 33.6 percent. If “Playoff P” comes in, the Thunder could roll this series.

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3 things that will lead to an OKC series victory

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the lower seed but you wouldn’t know it by how the two teams played each other in the regular season. The Thunder swept the Trail Blazers, in albeit close games. Oklahoma City has to do it again, but this time in the playoffs. One was a one-possession game, the other went to overtime. So, Oklahoma City didn’t exactly walk over the Blazers.

Here are three things that will lead to Oklahoma City beating the Blazers in the first round:

Attack Portland’s interior

The Blazers are without one of their best passers in Jusuf Nurkic. He went down with an injury earlier this month. What hurts the Blazers is his ability to pass the ball. When the ball went to the post, he was able to kick it out ot numerous shooters. However, his replacement, the lovable Enes Kanter, doesn’t carry that ability. He’s a guy who can score, sure but he doesn’t space the floor with his passing, nor does his find a way to limit his opponents defensively like an underrated Nurkic did.

Nurkic averaged 16.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game against the Thunder. That’s a massive hole. He was often the most impressive person on the floor, causing fits for players like Steven Adams. Without him, the Thunder have to attack. They need to attack Kanter on the pick-n-roll. They need to attack him on the glass. Sure, the Blazers are going to chip him on the cut to the rim, trying to limit Russell Westbrook and Steven Adams on the glass. However, the Thunder have to show the massive liability Kanter is. It helps the Thunder had him for a few seasons, learning what those were.

Emotional IQ

This is more along the lines of Westbrook. Mr. Triple-Double. It’s no secret these two teams aren’t fond of each other. Westbrook had his run-ins with the Trail Blazers. Westbrook often gets in his head and plays certain ways against teams and players that appear to bug him. For his career against Portland, Westbrook is shooting under 44 percent from the field and only 30 percent from three. That’s where Westbrook has to keep his wits about him. He has to be smarter. If he wants to sit back, rock the baby and try to dominate the game in the post, Portland is going to be more than content to letting Westbrook do that.

Westbrook’s ability to funnel the game through his all around game play is what is going to fuel Oklahoma City to victory. If he’s sharing the ball, and playing within his game, that’s where he becomes lethal. When he’s forcing it into the post and making it about him and not the game, the Thunder could struggle. Don’t give the Trail Blazers what they want. Westbrook has to have a high emotional IQ in this series. That is not excluding his temper with the officials and dumb fouls. This isn’t the time for that. Team first.

Pick your poison

The Trail Blazers don’t have a real lockdown defender, let alone two. There’s no way the Blazers can defend Westbrook and Paul George. George averaged 38.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game in his four games against Portland. He shot 46 percent from three and shot 60 free throws. If the Blazers throw Moe Harkless or Al-Farouq Aminu at George, it’s Westbrook who should be able to take Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum. If they switch that to Harkless or Aminu on Westbrook, it’s George that has to go to work.

All of this point, goes back to the first point, attacking Kanter on the pick-n-roll and on mismatches. The Thunder have to give the Blazers all they can handle. and more with Westbrook and George. They have the best tandem on the court.

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Russell Westbrook becomes franchise scoring leader

Russell Westbrook found the bucket quickly in the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans but what was most important by the bucket was where it placed him on the franchise’s all-time scoring list.

Russell Westbrook passed Gary Payton for No. 1 all-time on the Thunder/Sonics scoring list.

Westbrook now has 18,208 points. Payton finished his Seattle career with 18,207 points. It took Payton 13 seasons to do it. Westbrook did it in 11 seasons.

In terms of Oklahoma City, Westbrook bypassed Kevin Durant earlier this season.

Westbrook is atop or near the top of many Thunder/Sonic leaderboards. He is fourth in total games played. Second in Minutes played, Field goals, Field goal attempts, Free throws, Defensive rebounds, Assists and assists per game.

Westbrook is only 12 free throw makes away from passing Kevin Durant for the most makes in franchise history.

Westbrook for his career is averaging 22.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 8.4 assists per game.

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Westbrook waltzes into history as Thunder beat Blazers 120-111

A dish to Paul George and history was made. Russell Westbrook acquired a triple-double in 10 straight games and the Thunder rolled to a 120-111 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

Westbrook’s historic feat comes on the night where his co-all-star, Paul George, found himself en fuego. His arms were torches and the nets were the enemy. He lit up the ‘Peake with three-after-three. George also did a thing, you know, a stat-padding triple-double. The Thunder needed every bit of it but what Paul George is doing is on the verge of pushing James Harden off his Most Valuable Player leader pedestal.

Oklahoma City’s victory is their 11th game in their last 12 games. The Thunder are now 37-19 on the season. 18 games over .500 since Jan. 16, 2016.

Westbrook may not have shot the ball well but he did what he did best. He helped suffocated the Portland offense. He dished out nice looks to his teammates, putting them in prime position for buckets.

Westbrook broke a tie with Wilt Chamberlain, who had nine straight triple-doubles in 1968, by finishing with 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists. It was Westbrook’s 23rd triple-double of the season and the 127th of his career. He’s only 11 away from passing Magic Johnson on the triple-double career list.

“I just go play the game the right way,” Westbrook said. “It’s what I do. Go out and compete every night and leave it on the floor, and whatever happens, happens. I’m very, very blessed to be able to go out and play, and I don’t take it for granted.”

The Thunder trailed 1-0 and never again.

Oklahoma City closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run, giving them a 10-point lead after the first frame. They once again closed the half on 12-6 to give the Thunder a 68-49 lead at the break.

Portland would push back into the game in the third quarter, clawing to within five at the end of the frame but the Thunder did enough to keep the Blazers at bay. George hit an and-one. Then he hit a pull up three. Denote Burton hit a lay-up. Then, Westbrook hit a jumper, giving the Thundera 97-86 lead with 8:53 left to go in the game.

As the game was in hand, Paul George found Russell Westbrook for Westbrook’s only three of the game. It was Paul George’s turn to get the triple-double.

“Yeah, we talked about it right before that play,” George said. “We talked about it. I was clueless at that moment. But he told me the situation. So, it’s cool to be on the other end of the triple-double.”

George finished with 47 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. It is George’s first triple-double since March 21, 2014 with the Pacers. George continues to be on another tear. He’s now scored 30 or more points in 10 straight games.

It’s only the ninth time in NBA history a pair of teammates had a triple-double in the same game. It’s the first time it’s happened in the franchise’s history.

The Thunder did all of this tonight without Jerami Grant and Dennis Schröder. Raymond Felton and Burton stepped up. Burton was explosive throughout the game, scoring 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Burton is quickly finding himself in the rotation when he’s on his two-way contract. We’ll find him on a real NBA contract at this pace.

For Felton, it’s the first time he’s seen the court since Dec. 30 but he proved he was ready. The NBA savvy veteran returned against his former team and made them pay. Felton had 15 points, nailing three 3-pointers.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in Raymond,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s done a great job from the bench when he has not been playing, in practice, working out, staying engaged. I’ve got all the confidence in him.”

The Thunder are now 3-0 against Portland this season. It’s the first time since 2012-13, the Thunder have won more three or more against the Trail Blazers. That season (2012-13), the Thunder swept the Blazers.

Oklahoma City takes their 4-game winning streak on the road to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Thursday night. The game will be live on TNT as the Thunder will end the first half part of their roster.

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Thunder complete historic comeback in win over Rockets

James Harden was nailing threes and the Thunder were turning it over at a stupid rate. All appeared to be an old fashion, NBA blowout. Oklahoma City never quit and turned in the best comeback in franchise history as they came back to beat Houston 117-112 on Saturday night.

With the victory, Oklahoma City improves to 36-19 on the season and are within a game of second place in the Western Conference. The Thunder now have won 10 of their last 11 games and are the hottest team in the NBA.

“We knew to get back into the game, we had to defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “We got stops and won a big game on the road.”

Houston led 68-42 with 1:38 left to go in the first half. The Thunder would outscore the Rockets 73-44 over the final 25:30 of the contest.

If you really boil it down, it was about a full quarter, which spanned two quarters that put Oklahoma City in that situation. The Rockets outscored the Thunder 43-19 over 12:10, spanning the first and second quarter. Paul George struggled (0-of-3) and the Thunder only shot 32 percent over that time span.

“We just knew we had to have a better second half,” George said. “Being down that much at the half, that’s not the team we are. We know this team very well and we knew that wasn’t us. So we had to come in here and talk and just light a fire under this team and we did that.”

George came out and lit the fire. Oklahoma City hit their first 8-of-9 shots, fueling a 21-10 advantage. The Thunder continued to pour it on. They would hit their next seven shots, including a slew of free throws to tie the game up at the end of the third.

Oklahoma City shot 71.4 percent in the quarter, nailing 7-of-12 from three. They pulled down 13-of-18 total rebounds. They held the Rockets to 6-of-18 from the field in the quarter and 1-of-9 from three.

“We knew to get back into the game, we had to defend at a high level,” Westbrook said. “We got stops and won a big game on the road.”

The Thunder’s surge continued into the fourth quarter, leading by as many as six when Nerlens Noel put an alley-oop through, giving the Thunder a 98-92 with 9:19 to go in the game. Houston responded with an 11-0 run, giving them a five-point lead with 6:51 left to go.

George continued his onslaught, hitting shot after shot. The Most Valuable Player candidate showed why he belonged. On a national stage, George scored 28 points in the second half, 15 in the second half.

“Obviously, Paul with what he did tonight was phenomenal, the way he played,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He was on (James) Harden a lot. He was unbelievable tonight on both ends of the floor.”

George fought through foul trouble to continually giving James Harden fits. Harden shot only 2-of-8 from three in the second half and battled over screens to contest shot after shot.

“I look forward to playing against the best,” George said. “That’s how I was taught the game — just enjoy matchups and have fun with it.”

Oklahoma City led 113-112 with 26 seconds left, George and Westbrook fought over screens, Westbrook ended up finding himself contesting a deep Harden three. Oklahoma City pulled down the rebound and sealed the victory.

George finished with 45 points on 12-of-22 shots and hit 6-of-14 three-pointers and made 15-of-18 free throws.

Westbrook had 21 points, 11 assists and 12 rebounds to match the record streak set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1968. Westbrook has 22 triple-doubles this season and 126 overall. He also had 10 turnovers and was 8 of 21 from the field.

“It’s really incredible,” Donovan said. “It took whatever it was, 60 years, until somebody did it just to show you how hard it is to do and how unique of a player he is to be able to do it.”

Oklahoma City now owns the season series lead over the Rockets (2-1). They’ll play one more time but the Thunder cannot lose the head-to-head against the Rockets this season.

The Thunder now will turn their minds to the Portland Trail Blazers. Oklahoma City is 2-0 against Portland this season and will look to go 3-0 as they host the Blazers on Monday night at the ‘Peake. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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Thunder waives Alex Abrines

In a bit of surprising news, the Oklahoma City Thunder have made the tough, but mutual decision to waive Alex Abrines prior to tonight’s game against Houston.

According to Royce Young of ESPN, both parties agreed to part ways as Abrines has dealt with a personal issue for some time.

Shams Charania of the Athletic was the first to report.

“Even though he’s not gonna be a part of our team anymore, we’re all still here,” Thunder head coach Billy Donovan said. “He’s still part of the family, and we’ll do anything we can to try to help him going forward.”

Early on, Abrines missed time due to an injury, many different reports on what the said illness was. There has been zero clarification from either side, so everything is just speculation. Since then, Abrines has been taking personal time to attend to matters that have remained unknown. Abrines has missed 19 of the last 22 games.

Abrines, 25, returned to the line up against Orlando and Miami but did not appear against Boston. Abrines scored three points, while going 1-of-3 from deep in his 15 minutes of combined action. Abrines was inactive against Memphis on Thursday night.

Abrines appeared in 31 games for Oklahoma City, averaging 5.3 points 1.5 rebounds per game. He shot 32.3 percent from 3-point range, which is a career low.

Abrines appeared to be a missing piece when drafted in 2013 at the age of 19. He finished time in Spain but never really developed into a consistency guy Oklahoma City would have liked, despite the constant position to be that guy.

Abrines finished his Thunder career with average of 5.3 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, and a 36.8 3-point field goal percentage in 174 regular-season appearances.

The Thunder now have 11 active bodies for tonight’s game against Houston. Deonte Burton did make the trip to Houston. Oklahoma City and Houston tip-off at 7:30 p.m. on ABC.

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Thunder 3-point shooting coming up big

This is a league where you live and die by the three. It started with the Warrior’s dynasty and it has finally filtered down to the rest of the association.

Oklahoma City, though, isn’t considered a “deep threat.” Sure, there’s Paul George… that’s about it. Shooters is something that always has been a question mark. With the absence of Alex Abrines, the Thunder’s three-point shooting woes have been glaring to say the least.

In the 2018 part of the schedule Oklahoma City ranked 30th in 3-point shooting (32.2 percent). Only George and Jerami Grant shot above 33 percent during that time frame. Folks like Russell Westbrook and Terrance Fergusons hot under 30 percent.

There’s been a large changing of the guard with the emergence of Ferguson’s deep ball threat and Patrick Patterson finding his groove. Since the start of the new year, Oklahoma City hits 41.1 percent of their threes, only second to San Antonio’s 42.5 percent.

Patterson leads Oklahoma City at 48.6 percent shooting. Dennis Schröder at 44.7 percent. In fact, there are five Thunder players who see at least 14 minutes per game shooting over 40 percent from three.

None of the three-point shooting was more evident than in the 2018 portion. They shot under 28 percent in losses and 35 percent in wins. In the 2019, They’re shooting almost 40 percent in losses and 43.5 percent in victories.

If the Thunder can add in Alex Abrines back into the fold whenever his personal issues are done, the Thunder will be adding another shooter who’s a career 37 percent shooter. It spreads the floor and provides people like Steven Adams space to work inside.

They’re not going to hit 41 percent for the remainder of the year. It just doesn’t fit the makeup of this team. Which is to score off their defense’s suffocating manner. It frees up a lot of opportunities, though. As we saw in the win over Memphis.

They played zone, they packed the paint,” Billy Donovan said. “They really were not concerned about matchups at all. Sometimes you have to take what the defense gives you.”

Oklahoma City finally forced the Grizzlies out of the paint after taking 44 threes and were able to explode in the second half.

If the Thunder are going to go far in the Western playoffs, it’ll be on the back of not just the superstars, but also the three-point shooting.

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