OKLAHOMA CITY -- We have seen this show before, right? The Trail Blazers played the Oklahoma City Thunder on even terms most of the game, even led them at halftime and after the third quarter, but lost the fourth quarter and then the game.
Portland was outscored 34-26 in the fateful final period and dropped its record to 22-30 for the season.
Another discouraging loss for a team that can't seem to put its collective finger on what's wrong. Which makes it very difficult to repair whatever the problem is, of course.
That is becoming the story of this season.
"It's frustrating," said Damian Lillard, who led Portland with 29 points. "I do think we competed. Like I said, we didn't come out here and not have a chance to win. We were in position to win the game, once again. Like many games we have had this season we had opportunities that we didn't always take advantage of, whether that was a free throw that Russ (Westbrook) missed and then got the rebound or something else.
"And then at the other end, when we got opportunities we didn't always take advantage of them. We got open looks that we didn't knock down. Sometimes we didn't move the ball maybe the way we needed to."
In the critical fourth quarter the Thunder hit 11 of their 18 shots and Portland made 10 of 22. Not a huge difference there, really. But OKC hit three of its five three-point shots while the Blazers were making just two of nine. And coming into that period, the Thunder had hit just one of 13 from three while Portland had made eight of 19.
And of course rebounding was a problem all afternoon. A big one. Oklahoma City had a 56-44 edge with a whopping 17 offensive rebounds. The Trail Blazers were very fortunate that the Thunder had a terrible time connecting on a lot of tips and easy putbacks that would have markedly changed this game.
"I thought our defensive rebounding was a challenge all night," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "We were fortunate that they missed some of their opportunities. ... But that's what they do. They are a paint team, whether it's driving in the paint or getting offensive rebounds."
The Thunder defense was also very good at protecting the rim when the Portland guards beat their defender off the dribble and got into the lane. Several times Lillard or CJ McCollum got into the paint in areas where they are usually able to finish with a reverse layup or floater, only to be foiled by the OKC big men.
Size matters and the Thunder certainly have an edge over the Trail Blazers in that department. And at just about every position.
But the real edge OKC has on every team is Russell Westbrook, who is as close to a one-man team as there is in the NBA. The Blazers kept the perpetual-motion machine from another triple-double (he had four rebounds and eight assists) but he burned them for 42 points.
"He got 34 shots," Lillard said. "When he shoots that much he's going to score."
Portland moves on to yet another difficult game Tuesday night in Dallas against the Mavericks, who won in Portland just last week.