OKLAHOMA CITY – You change the venue and often, you get a different result.
The Oklahoma City Thunder shot a miserable 16.4 percent from three-point range during the first two games in Moda Center, as the Trail Blazers took a 2-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.
But Friday night in OKC, the tide turned in a big way as the home team posted a 120-108 win. The Thunder knocked down 15 of its 29 shots from long range (51.7 percent).
And oh, by the way, in the two games at Portland, Oklahoma City managed to get to the foul line just three more times than the Trail Blazers. But in Friday’s game, OKC trooped to the free-throw line 15 more times than Portland.
And if you’ve been in the NBA very long, you certainly have grown to expect such things. Home teams get more of those 50-50 calls. Stuff happens.
“I’m not commenting on that,” Portland Coach Terry Stotts said when asked a question about how his players handled the officiating – which isn’t exactly like asking him what he thought of the officiating.
But, you know. Fines and stuff. And it did seem the Blazers got very frustrated with the officiating during the fourth quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a physical game because so far this entire series has been really physical,” Damian Lillard said. “But you don’t get the benefit of the doubt on the road. I think on both sides, both teams played really physical and they lived at the free-throw line and we didn’t.”
There were plenty of other factors you could point to as reasons the Trail Blazers lost:
- They led by a point after the first quarter but suffered through a horrible second quarter. In the second period, Portland made only 6 of 16 shots and had a whopping 10 turnovers.
- They fell behind by 16 in the third quarter and had to burn a lot of energy to crawl back into the game, which they did when they tied it with 10:41 left in the game.
- They had 18 turnovers for the night, which the Thunder turned into 18 points.
- After blocking 15 shots in the first two games, they had only one Friday night.
- While Lillard played Superman with 25 points in the third quarter and 32 in the game, he couldn’t find much help. Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu – Portland’s starting forwards – each made only three of their nine shots from the field and totaled three of their nine from three-point distance – on a night when they were left open once in a while by a defense that was all over Lillard and CJ McCollum.
- Portland had the misfortune of catching Russell Westbrook on a night when he made four of his six three-pointers. He made just 29 percent of his three-point shots during the regular season.
It was once again a chippy game, with words being exchanged between players many times. Lillard and Westbrook continued to go at it and that got heated in the fourth quarter when both were barking at each other while Westbrook was handling the ball.
And Paul George, who should know better, dunked a ball as time expired (after the final horn, as it turned out) and some Portland players took exception to that. It's considered bad form when a team has a safe lead.
And this was once again a game that turned on three-point shooting. The team that has shot the best from three – and made the most three-pointers – has won each game.
“You can play really, really poorly but if you really make a lot of threes, regardless of this series or any series, I think you can always keep yourself in a game,” OKC Coach Billy Donovan said.
And for Portland, eight of its 12 threes came from two players, Lillard and McCollum. Aminu added three more and the Blazers got just one, by Rodney Hood, from their bench.
The series continues at the same site Sunday night.