Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter, ex-Thunder player and almost a Laker, says he's "blessed" to be a Blazer

Enes Kanter had a decision to make in February.

Cut loose by the lowly New York Knicks (“They thought I was too old,” he said), Kanter was being pursued by several teams, including the Trail Blazers and the Los Angeles Lakers.

And while a good many players might have chosen Hollywood, sunshine and LeBron James, Kanter picked Portlandia, rainy days and Damian Lillard.

And with the way things have turned out with the two teams this season, he’s one very happy man about that choice.

“Now is the fun time,” he said. “The playoffs. Win or go home. It’s amazing. I’m super blessed. I could have been going on vacation yesterday.

“I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday and said, ‘I should feel very blessed to be with this team and this organization.’ It means a lot because this one of the classiest and one of the best organizations I’ve ever been a part of.

“If I went to LA, I probably would have gone nuts.”

It was a very close call, he said. A difficult decision.

“It was between Portland and LA,” Kanter said. “I didn’t know. It was 50-50. But then Dame texted me. And Neil (Olshey) texted me. This team wanted me.”

And it was a very fortuitous move by the Trail Blazers. Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg March 25 and Portland had a seasoned, experienced (583 regular-season NBA games and 27 playoff games) pro to start at center.

And it’s not as if Kanter hasn’t had some huge games at Moda Center in his life.

His NBA high game was the 33-pointer he had for the Thunder on April 6, 2016 in Portland. And he broke Dirk Nowitzki’s one-game scoring record with a 34-point, 13-rebound game while playing for the World team in the Nike Hoop Summit at Moda in 2010.

But now he’s in a Portland uniform matched up against his former Thunder teammates.

It’s safe to say that nobody in a Blazer uniform knows more about the team’s first-round playoff opponent than Kanter.

Kanter played 180 games for the Thunder through two and a half seasons with them, ending with the 2016-17 season.

During that time there were countless practice matchups with the OKC center, Steven Adams, whom he backed up.

Still friends to this day, Kanter fondly remembers those days going against Adams.

“He’s definitely one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Kanter said. “Obviously me and him were going against each other for two and a half years. He is very athletic. He has a very high basketball IQ. He reads the game very well.

“He is very important to them on defense. I think he’s their backbone.

“We know each other’s game. I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I’m going to do. But I think the next step is who is going to be more focused and who is going to bring the most effort.”

As a former member of the enemy team, Kanter said he might have some inside information about the Thunder.

“It’s my ex-team and I know a lot of the guys and know their games.  I said a couple of things to the assistant coaches,” he said. “But I think they already know those things. Everybody’s doing a really good job of scouting the other teams.”

Sunday afternoon, in Game 1 of the series, we will find out.

What They’re Saying about the Portland Trail Blazers heading into Game 5

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NBC Sports Northwest

What They’re Saying about the Portland Trail Blazers heading into Game 5

The Portland Trail Blazers took on the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday in Game 4. While the Thunder and Blazers were coming off a chippy Game 3, where OKC prevailed in front of its home crowd, it was Portland who came away victorious at Chesapeake Energy Arena in the fourth matchup of the postseason.

The Blazers now have a 3-1 series lead and have the opportunity to finish the Thunder on homecourt. But before Portland and OKC meet on Tuesday, let's take a look at What They’re Saying about the Blazers heading into Game 5.

Damian Lillard’s dominance throughout the series has left everyone talking about the Blazers star guard, especially after last year's sweep against the Pelicans.

Rohan Nadkarni of Sports Illustrated says the Blazers are seeing big dividends from their main man. 

"A year later, Lillard has improved across the board. His field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, and points per game are all significantly higher than they were in the sweep, Lillard didn’t magically turn into a bad player against the Pelicans, and he hasn’t become a perfect one against the Thunder, but after back-to-back postseason sweeps, at the very least Lillard’s focus and commitment to his craft has led to tangible success."

Lillard isn't the only player that has impressed. CJ McCollum has also been stellar. In Game 4, McCollum had a team-high 27 points and kept the Thunder from mounting a true comeback.

Jordan Zirm of UPROXX noted the backcourt duo’s impressive performance.

“They’ve thoroughly outplayed the headline-grabbing duo of Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and McCollum has been unconscious from deep. He’s shooting 51.6 percent from beyond against the Thunder while taking nearly 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc, per Cleaning the Glass. If the Blazers are to continue their unlikely charge to the Western Conference Finals, McCollum and Lillard will have to elevate their two-man game to another level.”

Sekou Smith of NBA.com shared his thoughts on Lillard and McCollum’s ability to handle adversity.

“That shared mindset and leadership style from Lillard and McCollum is what drives these Blazers. It’s what will allow them to advance in this postseason and what will guide them in the future.”

During Game 4, NBA on TNT’s Charles Barkley said he felt the battle between Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard was a one-sided battle.

“He is not trying to compete with Russell. Russell is trying to compete with him…I’m telling you, this team here, they’re going to the Finals.”

Kevin Pelton and Kirk Goldsberry of ESPN called the Blazers one of the biggest surprises of the NBA Playoffs. 

“How Portland has controlled the series against Oklahoma City. The Blazers have had answers for everything that ailed them in last season's sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans. When the Thunder have forced the ball out of the hands of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, fellow starters Al-Farouq Aminu, Enes Kanter and Maurice Harkless have made big plays. And Lillard and McCollum have been forces without forcing the issue.’ - Pelton

“Lillard has been brilliant. McCollum has been strong. But they've managed to survive the Jusuf Nurkic injury in part because Kanter has been solid, even on defense. I did not see that coming.” - Goldsberry

Blazers mind their own business en route to Game 4 win at OKC

Blazers mind their own business en route to Game 4 win at OKC

OKLAHOMA CITY – It was a business trip for the Portland Trail Blazers. And business is good.

Portland’s approach to Sunday night’s pivotal Game 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder was a textbook approach for a team that was harassed and defeated by the home team just two days previously,

“We were very businesslike,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said after his team's 111-98 victory put it one win away from winning the series. “We took care of our business. I think, as I told the team, we have to be concerned about us, and I thought we played the way we needed to play. And there really wasn’t a lot — as we talked about yesterday – any of the peripheral stuff. I liked the way we approached the game throughout.”

But all of that started at the end of the regular season, when Jusuf Nurkic was lost to a broken leg and C J McCollum went down with a knee injury.

At that point, Lillard took command of the situation and went about the job of building confidence and trust in his teammates.

Instead of taking on more of a burden, he got more teammates involved and allowed them to help him carry the load.

The results have been spectacular and it’s the reason that, for all of Lillard’s on-court talents, his leadership may be his most valuable asset.

“We were put in a position where we had to lean on each other and trust each other,”Lillard said. “And it was great for our team. We had to lean on each other and develop trust and the confidence we needed to have with each other. Our team was together and really believing in each other. So coming into this series, this isn’t anything new for us.

“We’ve just been getting the job done. Like Coach said, we had a businesslike mentality.

“It was the first time, that after Game 3, we were in the locker room saying ‘They lived at the free-throw line,’ and all this stuff.

“But in Game 4 we’re not talking to anybody but ourselves. Referees can call it how they want to call it, We’re just going to worry about ourselves. We’re going to play hard and stay together. And when their crowd gets into it, we’re just going to keep on doing what we do and come out on top.

“I was proud that we were able to stick to that and actually get it done. And a lot of that was because of what we’d been through in the regular season and how we came together.”

The Thunder got off to a solid start but the Blazers led by two after the first quarter. Portland trailed by seven points with two and a half minutes left in the first half but finished with an 11-0 run.

That was significant because Lillard was just 2-8 from the field and had only seven points at half.

“I loved it,” Lillard said. “Anytime we can be on the road, playing against a really good team, and not playing well and not having been scoring the ball and we have a lead that deep into a game, that’s a great situation.

“All I need to do is see it go in one time. And that can turn into three or four or five.”

Of course he saw plenty of them go in during the second half, as he finished with 24 points and 4-8 from three-point range.

CJ McCollum was solid all night alongside Lillard,. He was 5-9 on threes and scored 27 and hit a couple of big triples early in the fourth quarter when Lillard was getting a rest.

The second half belong to the Blazers at both ends of the court. Russell Westbrook was held to one point and three assists after halftime and the Thunder ended up being outscored in the paint 36-22. OKC made only 11 of its 30 shots in that area.

McCollum was asked about the development of his team this season.

“I think we’re a lot more mature,” McCollum said. “We understood what we wanted to accomplish tonight. We had multiple discussions about it. If they don’t have a black and gray jersey on, don’t talk to them. Talk to our team only. Don’t talk to the refs.

“Execute our game plan and let’s get out of here with a win.”

McCollum doesn’t mince words when he talks about his team’s motivation.

“We got swept last year,” he said. “Everybody talked about it. We were on TV every day. They talked about the sweep, they talked about me getting traded, they talked about how we (Lillard and McCollum) can’t win together.”

McCollum was asked about the challenge they might face in Tuesday’s Game 5 in Moda Center vs. the Thunder.

“We’re not worried about the Thunder,” he said. “We’re worried about the Blazers. We have to execute our game plan. We have to stick to what we’ve been doing, turn it up a notch. We’re going to be at home, we’re going to be facing a desperate team that is facing elimination.

“We really just need to focus on ourselves, focus on how we can execute and how we can knock down shots, how we can empower each other. And then defensively, stay locked in.”

In other words, just stick to business.

Al-Farouq Aminu's key performance puts OKC on the ropes

Al-Farouq Aminu's key performance puts OKC on the ropes

OKALHOMA CITY – “Ohhh Chief, I love the way you played tonight, boy!!”

That comment was heard from across the Trail Blazers locker room as Maurice Harkless was singing, or rather yelling, Al-Farouq Aminu’s praises following the Blazers 111-98 victory over the Thunder in Game 4 of the best-of-seven-series.

Harkless was the first Blazer player to talk in the locker room and thus he was the first to give Aminu a shout-out. 

“Chief was great. He was knocking shots down; he was rebounding, getting some blocks… Those things are huge, they add up and they led us to making runs, that’s how you get out to a big lead,” Harkless said.

One of the big Trail Blazers’ adjustments in Game 4 was to find the open player who was spotting up on the opposite side of the pick-and-roll action with Damian Lillard and Enes Kanter.

Aminu was that player.

And, he was ready for it.

“I don’t know how many threes [Aminu] made, but, it felt like he made every time he shot it. I mean, he was great and Dame and CJ [McCollum] did a really good job of finding Enes and Enes did a really good job making good decisions,” Harkless said.

There’s no doubt Aminu was in zone. He hit his first three three-pointers and ended the game going 4-for-9 from deep. The Blazers starting power forward finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts was not surprised one bit by Aminu’s stellar performance.

“He does it every night,” Stotts said. “Sometimes he scores, sometimes he doesn’t, but he gives a great effort every night. We ask him to do a lot of things on the defensive end, to rebound. He’s probably a better shooter than people give him credit for, and he’s been an important part of our team since he’s been here.”  

For Chief, it’s about putting personal stuff on hold and only focusing on his team.

“This part of the year everybody is so locked in on winning. Not to say that you’re not locked in during the season, but the stakes are higher. You kind of put yourself to the side a little more and you put it into the team,” Aminu said.  

“I think we trust each other. We’ve got to continue to trust each other,” Harkless added.

Throughout his career in Portland, Aminu has been the go-to defensive stopper for the Blazers and that has continued in this series with the Thunder.

Aminu made Paul George’s life difficult once again, along with the other Thunder forwards, in Game 4, but he was quick to give his teammates credit for how well they’ve been playing on that end of the floor.

“I thought we did a great job [on defense]. We helped each other. I thought Enes at the rim was big. He had a lot of verticals, as well as Zach. Zach was just flying around out there. He was giving us energy… The guards were getting into guys… I think we’ve been great defensively throughout the series,” Aminu said.

Aminu finished with the second best plus/minus on the team with a +19 behind CJ McCollum’s +25. Aminu was happy to help his team put up points. 

“I’m just glad I was able to alleviate some of the pressure… Those are the shots that we are going to have to hit,” Aminu said.

“It’s important,” for Aminu to make sure he is involved in some kind of shooting competition whether it’s during his pregame routine or after Trail Blazers practice.

“I don’t really like to just come in and just shoot jumpers, just to be shooting and I feel like it doesn’t add that element that you feel when you’re in the game whereas, you know, you’re nervous a little bit, you don’t want to lose to the other guys. It adds that competitiveness and I think it helps me,” Aminu said with a smile.    

The Trail Blazer now take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Thunder. Portland also snapped its eight consecutive postseason road lossing streak with Sunday’s win.

With all the Thunder antics and trash talking, it was clear the Blazers were happy to not only get Game 4 on the road, but to not listen to OKC chirping in the second half on Sunday night.

“Tonight was just a good day for us to shut them up,” Harkless said. “We’re focused… We’re heading home, can’t wait to get home to our crowd and we’re excited about Tuesday. We’re going to play hard and play even better than we did tonight.”

You heard Harkless, Moda Center crowd, the Blazers are coming for you and they are eager to closeout the first round series at home.

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4

Rapid Reaction: 3 Quick Takeaways from the Trail Blazers win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Trail Blazer entered Sunday night looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series against the Thunder.

Portland was also trying to snap its eight consecutive postseason road game losses dating back to 2016.

Game 3’s 228-point cumulative score marked the highest of the series. Early on it looked as though both teams were ready to break that highest scoring mark in Game 4.

At the end of the first quarter Sunday, The Blazers and Thunder were both shooting over 40% as a team. Portland jumped out to a 26-24 lead.

Despite a rough shooting in the first half for Damian Lillard, and only scoring seven in the first half, he shot lights out in the second half. Lillard scored 15 points in the third and finished with 24 points to help the Blazers hold off the Thunder for a 111-98 win.

The Blazers and Thunder are both looking to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Final Box Score: Trail Blazers 111, Thunder 98

Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 4 victory:

1. The offensive fouls continued…

Whether it was a charge call, a moving screen, a player extending out his elbow or pretty much any other offensive foul you can think of, it happened in the first half of Game 4. 

Plenty of offensive fouls were being charged to the Thunder and that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

At the 9:31 mark in the first quarter, Billy Donovan got hit with a technical foul for arguing with the referees.

The biggest offensive foul call came fairly early in the second quarter after Paul George picked up his third in nearly 14 minutes in transition while running into Seth Curry.

A big storyline of this series had already been offensive fouls and thus that continues.

The foul trouble for PG13 did not continue in the second half, but George did have a sloppy game with more turnovers than normal.

2. Blazers picking up the pace

Throughout the game, the Blazers looked to get out up the court a little quicker in order to not let the Thunder’s defense get completely set.

Entering Sunday’s slate of games, the Blazers-Thunder series ranked fifth out of the eight first-round matchups with an average pace of 101.9 possessions per game for either team.

3. Role players stepping up for Portland

Throughout his career in Portland, Al-Farouq Aminu has been the go-to defensive stopper for the Blazers. On Sunday night, he became the go-to three-point shooter on the weak side.

Aminu still made Paul George’s life hard along with the other Thunder forwards, but he was also a major key in the Blazers adjusting to how OKC was defending the pick-and-roll.

The Blazers starting power forward was wide-open on the weak side when the Blazers’ guards ran the pick-and-roll. Portland was able to swing the ball to him quickly or drive and kick out to him, and Aminu was in zone. He hit his first three three-pointers and ended the game going 4-for-9 from deep.

Maurice Harkless’ active hands and energy on the defensive end could not go unnoticed. The Blazers two starting forwards came up big in the Blazers big Game 4.

NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Thunder will tip-off Game 5 in Portland on Tuesday night at 7:30pm. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:30pm.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

Game 4: Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

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USA Today Images

Game 4: Everything you need to know from pregame as Trail Blazers prep for Oklahoma City Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s almost tip-off time for Game 4 of the Trail Blazers and Thunder First Round series. Portland is looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The media got a chance to ask their final questions before Game 4 for Thunder head coach Billy Donovan and Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. 

Coach Donovan discussed how he can always count on his point guard Russell Westbrook.

“I think he always plays with great energy, great intensity. I give him a lot of credit… His confidence never wavers,” Donovan said. 

Donovan also discussed how important it has been and will be moving forward in the series to have his role players like Jerami Grant and Terrance Ferguson step up and hit shots.

Hear from Coach Donovan right here:

The Blazers are not concerned with not getting as many assists as their season average (22.8). Coach Stotts mentioned when you have players like Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum who can create their own shots so well, it’s not too big of concern that the team assists are down in the series.

Coach Stotts also discussed how the Thunder have been defending Lillard.

“They were trying to trap him all game, not just the 4th quarter. He’s gotten really good about dealing with traps… Scoring 25 in the quarter while they were trying to get the ball out of his hands… They’ve been trying to take the ball out of his hands the whole series, the whole season, so it’s nothing we haven’t seen,” Stotts said.   

Hear from Coach Stotts right here:  

Just "go hoop" -- Trail Blazers not concerned with Oklahoma City's crowd

Just "go hoop" -- Trail Blazers not concerned with Oklahoma City's crowd

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma City Thunder will be trying to even up their Western Conference First Round matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers Sunday. Portland won both games at home before the Thunder took Game 3 on their home floor.

There’s no doubt that home court can and has played a major factor in NBA playoff games.  

Game 3 Friday night, the Oklahoma City fans were on their feet and going crazy whether it was a made corner three from Terrance Ferguson or a Russell Westbrook block on Damian Lillard.

Portland was able to quiet the crowd by hitting timely threes of their own. CJ McCollum and Lillard both hushed fans with big threes or big time drives to the basket.

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts compared hitting a big shot on the road vs. at home.

“Anytime you’re on the road when you can quiet the crowd, I mean, as a player that’s always a good moment, in some ways it’s as good of moment as getting your crowd at home fired up with a shot,” Stotts said.

“Quieting a crowd [when a team] is making a run, that’s a great part of our game,” Stotts added. 

Chesapeake Arena seats just over 18,000 fans and with their team being down 2-0 in the series on Friday night, the crowd was eager to support and help their team with their loud cheering and clapping of “Thunder sticks.”

After playing for the Thunder for two years, Trail Blazers starting center Enes Kanter knows how disruptive the OKC crowd can be, saying,  “that’s why they call it the Loud City.”

But, the Blazers are focused solely on themselves when they’re away from home.

“I just go hoop. I don’t really worry about the fans. I don’t worry about where we’re at… I just go play basketball,” McCollum said.

“It’s always been the same for me, home or away. I approach it the same way,” McColum continued.

For media people watching the game in media row, being surrounded by fans, it can sound a lot louder than what the players are hearing on the court.

“A lot of times, you know, you sit in the stands you can hear how loud it is,” McCollum said. “For us, it’s generally not noticeable until you try to talk, so just the communication has to be better because it’s louder.”

Oklahoma City is a 6-point favorite heading into Sunday’s Game 4 with home court advantage, but Lillard believes there is a way to limit the advantage of loud, rowdy fans.

“You just gotta focus on the game, Lillard said. “I think we did a pretty good job of just focusing on the game and we were down 10 at half [in Game 3], we came out, we just kept playing, we didn’t panic, you know, buy into the crowd, and what they were saying, how loud they were, we just kept playing and I think that gave us a chance.”

“If we do us, those types of things will happen – not allow the crowd to get into it so much, I guess you can limit what the home court advantage is,” Lillard said.

The Trail Blazers don't NEED to win a game in OKC to take this series, but it sure would be nice if they could quiet the crowd and steal Game 4. 

Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. OKC Thunder: How and Where to Watch

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USA Today Images

Game 4 of Portland Trail Blazers vs. OKC Thunder: How and Where to Watch

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your Blazers and stream the games easily on your device.

The Blazers are locked in for Game 4, and they think it would be "big time" to win on Sunday. “It would be huge if we were able to take the game tomorrow night and go home with some momentum and try to close it out at home,” said Maurice Harkless Saturday. “I think that would be big time."


GAME DETAILS

Where to Watch: NBC Sports Northwest

Where to Watch on the go: Stream the game live on the new MyTeams App

Tip-Off Time: 6:30 p.m. 

Point spread: Oklahoma City -6

NBCS NW Coverage: Blazers Outsiders Pregame Show (4:00 p.m.), Blazers Outsiders Postgame Show (immediately after the postgame show). 

Radio: 620AM Rip City Radio

 

INJURY UPDATES

For the Trail Blazers, Jusuf Nurkic (left leg) is out for Tuesday's Game 4 vs. OKC.

For the Thunder, Andre Roberson (left patellar) and Hamidou Diallo (right elbow) are out.
 


QUICK LINKS

Dwight Jaynes: Homecourt matters as Oklahoma City Thunder bounces back to beat Trail Blazers

Jamie Hudson: Thunder finally zero in on the pick-and-roll, but Trail Blazers like where they're at

Scoop Podcast: Inside the Trail Blazers locker room after the Game 3 loss in OKC

VIDEO: Thunder brought a new attack in Game 3

VIDEO: Game 4 looms large for the Trail Blazers



Download the brand new MyTeams app today - This is the app for everything Blazers: games, highlights, articles, podcasts and more from your NBC Sports Northwest Blazers team.

Headband Moe should have kept the headband on

Headband Moe should have kept the headband on

That headband Moe Harkless threw into the Oklahoma City crowd is now worth $15,000. Well, it's at least what it cost Harkless:

This Western Conference playoff series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder is getting more and more intense with each passing game. After winning the first two games at home in Portland, the Blazers fell 120-108 on the road in game three in Oklahoma. In what was an interesting game on the officiating end, Moe Harkless had enough from the refs and threw his headband into the crowd.

You can watch the video HERE.

A frustrating game for Portland? Yes. Another chance at the Thunder? Definitely. Game four on Sunday.

You can catch all the playoff coverage of game four in Oklahoma City tomorrow on NBC Sports Northwest.

OKC would be a lot less "talkative" if the Blazers take Game 4

OKC would be a lot less "talkative" if the Blazers take Game 4

OKLAHOMA CITY – Let’s start today’s little off-day story by making it clear that the Trail Blazers can win their first-round playoff series against Oklahoma City without ever having to win a game on the road. Everybody knows that.

Portland has homecourt advantage. Just keep winning in Moda Center and when Game 7 is over, the Trail Blazers will be headed for the second round of the playoffs.

But that’s a dangerous game to play. Usually, one team wins a game on the other team’s court and you don’t want to be the team that loses at home – particularly late in the series when it’s hard to wrestle back that homecourt edge.

That’s why I think it’s extremely important for the Trail Blazers win Game 4 Sunday night. And on many levels.

Yes, if they win Sunday they can wrap up the series Tuesday night at home. Quick series means more rest prior to the start of the next one.

But more than that, the Trail Blazers are getting sick of the Thunder. I don’t know any other way to put that, but playing a team four times in the regular season and then facing it for a possible seven more games in the playoffs is a lot – particularly when that team brings all the antics the Thunder throw at the opposition.

Russell Westbrook rocks the baby, never stops talking and overall, makes himself as obnoxious with opponents as he is with the media. Dennis Schroder was mocking Damian Lillard’s wrist tap for “Lillard Time” at the end of Friday’s game. Paul George did a reverse dunk on the Blazers just after the final horn went off and that’s considered an unprofessional act in the NBA.

“It would be huge if we were able to take the game tomorrow night and go home with some momentum and try to close it out at home,” said Maurice Harkless. “I think that would be big time.

“You know, it would put a lot of pressure on that team to win a game on the road. And I know, going back home, our fans would be super excited to be closing out a series at home.”

And is it extra motivation to win, just so you don’t have to deal with their garbage?

“Yeah, it is,” he said with a laugh. “You know, they come with a lot of extra stuff when they win. WHEN THEY WIN. They are a lot less talkative when they don’t. We just have to go in there tomorrow and handle our business and focus on that and see what happens.”

Enes Kanter is in a unique position of having played for the Thunder and is now playing against them in this series.

“I used to get nervous going against them,” Kanter said. “They are just going to do everything to get under people’s skin. So we need to just keep our calm and go out there and do our job.”

And how are his new teammates doing with that?

“I’m very impressed with Dame and CJ, especially, and they are doing a very good job… just keeping their coolness,” he said. “Russ is trying to do everything to get under their skin but especially Dame, doing an amazing job of just keep coming, focusing on what they need to focus on.”

Kanter understands the need to grab that third win Sunday night.

“This is very, very important,” he said. “I remember, I was with Oklahoma City Thunder three years ago and we were up 3-1 against Golden State and they came back and beat us 4-3.

“Every game matters. Every possession matters in the playoffs.”

Lillard said it would be “really important” to win Sunday night.

“Last game I thought we played a solid game,” he said. “We just came up a little bit short. Tomorrow we’ve got to come with that same energy and that same focus. We want to get that one tomorrow.

“You don’t want to just count on winning home games. You want to get at least one on the road and put more pressure on them.”

Coach Terry Stotts falls back on the “every game is important” stance, as he should. As a coach, you can’t really go all in on any one game. And as far as giving the Thunder momentum if they tie the series at 2?

“Momentum changes game by game in the playoffs,” he said. “If we win, they win, there’s a pendulum that goes over a little stronger one way or the other. Momentum is a fickle thing in the playoffs.”

Stotts did admit that he intended to get that technical foul he was called for in Game 3.

“I wanted to get one, yes,” he said. “There were three plays in a row – I thought Enes got fouled on a shot, I thought Enes got pushed underneath and that last one was an obvious hold. So I think it was the culmination of those three consecutive plays.”

Glad that was accomplished. It was cool to have a rare Angry Stotts sighting.