The Portland Trail Blazers got that 10-game playoff losing streak off their back Sunday afternoon. Now perhaps the narrative might shift to oh, maybe the Oklahoma City Thunder not being able to win a playoff series since Kevin Durant blew town.
Just a thought, because this best-of-seven series has a long way to go.
The Trail Blazers busted out to a 19-point first-half lead and then held on through a tense fourth quarter on the way to a 104-99 Game 1 win over the Thunder.
The storyline throughout most of the afternoon was OKC’s inability to make three-point shots. It made only two of its first 22 three-point attempts and finished 5-33 from three-point range. Paul George had a very tough time behind the arc, hitting just four of his 15 attempts.
“Well, he didn’t shoot the ball well from three and that’s been a big difference in our regular-season games,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. “To be honest, I think we gave him too many open three looks and that’s going to be a concern going into Game 2. But he’s a great player and he’s going to get his shot attempts.
“I thought we did a nice job of changing different guys on him, whether it’s Chief, Rodney, Moe or Evan… My biggest concern with him is that he had too many threes.
“We can’t allow him to get away from us as much as we did.”
George seemed to agree.
“Yeah, I thought we got great looks,” he said. “Great looks all night. For me, it’s just rhythm. Four days ago I couldn’t even lift my shoulder … and today was the first day I shot the ball, so with me, it’s just rhythm. Tomorrow I’ll get some shots up and get back in tune and try to get the same looks that we got tonight.”
Meanwhile, Portland struggled with holding onto the ball and keeping Oklahoma City off the offensive boards. The Thunder stayed close due to 18 offensive rebounds and turned them into 21 second-chance points. And Portland had 18 turnovers, too.
But shooting 44 percent from three-point range (11-25) does wonders to erase mistakes. And that fast start that resulted in a big lead helped, too.
“We came into this series knowing that we’ve got to be the team that delivers the first blow,” Damian Lillard said. “We’ve got to come out aggressive and make a stand. Regardless if it’s a win or a loss, we made it a point to come out here and be aggressive and just have that attitude of, ‘We’re going to be here all night.’ We did that and we got the first one.”
Lillard made nine of his 21 shots overall and five of his 11 threes to lead his team with 30 points. And he had plenty of help.
CJ McCollum scored 24 and Enes Kanter scored 20 to go with 18 rebounds, seven on the offensive end – including two big ones inside the final minute.
“We needed every rebound, we needed every point and I think that he knew that, regardless of playing against his former team,” McCollum said of Kanter.
The Blazers had trouble with the Thunder in transition – but every team does. Russell Westbrook had his usual triple-double, with 24-10-10 but didn’t annihilate the Trail Blazers. He missed all four of his three-point attempts and was 8-17 from the field with four turnovers.
And he’s as pesky in the interview room as he is on the court – muttering “Next question” twice after queries from a veteran Oklahoma City columnist he doesn’t seem to like.
But the real “next question” comes Tuesday night in Moda Center. Will Paul George continue to struggle from three-point range? Will the Trail Blazers be able to continue their solid three-point shooting? Can OKC defend the Trail Blazers as well as it did over the final three quarters Sunday?
And, of course, can Portland go up 2-0 in the series?