All in all, THAT game Sunday night was how I expected the Portland Trail Blazers to look this season.
The Blazers were clicking on both ends of the court, shooting 50 percent from the field for the first time this season and defending key Oklahoma City players well in their 103-99 win in Moda Center. Russell Westbrook went 10 for 25 from the floor, 3 for 10 from three-point range and just 2 for 7 from the foul line in a wacky performance -- it featured five straight free-throw misses by him -- unlike his usual MVP-quality show. The Blazers won the board battle 43-32 and held the Thunder to 44.9 percent shooting.
All in all, it was a fine game, even though the home team walked a tightrope late in the final minutes, very nearly spoiling a nice effort with shaky ball handling.
Damian Lillard played his best game of the season with 36 points and 13 assists and was stellar down the stretch.
Jusuf Nurkic joined the party, too -- hitting 11 of 15 shots and scoring 25 to go with eight rebounds and two blocks.
And really, it makes a whole lot of difference when Nurkic is on his game. He's a difference maker at both ends of the court and the way he "sold" an elbow to his face from Carmelo Anthony in the third quarter was worthy of the best the WWE has to offer -- and it led to Anthony's ejection. Nurkic went down as if he was hit by a sledge hammer -- and maybe it felt that way.
Nurkic was motionless on the floor for about a minute after Anthony's right elbow caught his face on the way up for a shot that was originally ruled a foul on Nurkic and a potential three-point play for Anthony. But with Nurkic laid out on the floor, officials looked at replays and changed the call to a flagrant 2 on Anthony, who was ejected. It may have altered the outcome of the game.
Let me say I didn't think it was a Flagrant 2 foul and nobody deserves to be ejected for such a play. Anthony was in the act of shooting and trying to draw a foul in the process. Nurkic got a little too close for his own good and got smacked -- although how hard was open to debate. It may have been a brutal shot or a love tap, it was impossible to tell from the replays -- but Nurkic sold it like Ric Flair taking an elbow from Hulk Hogan and the officials bought into it.
Anyone who has played a lot of basketball will tell you that when you go up to block somebody's shot, you take a chance of getting caught with an elbow or arm to the face. It's just what happens. And when you do take that hit, it can often be called a foul on you. But whatever. This one wasn't.
And the Blazers got the benefit. I must say, it was a physical game -- as it always is when Portland hooks up with OKC.
And we got a glimpse of the potential of this Portland team against a group that is expected to be one of the best in the NBA.
A fun game punctuated by some controversy is a wonderful thing.
Tonight's Talkin' Ball Podcast: