The Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder squared off in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs in Game 1 on Sunday.
The NW division foes are both looking to advance to the second round for the first time since 2016.
Thunder All-Star Paul George has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder since February 26th, and was listed as questionable, but since it’s the playoffs George played his normal minutes in Game 1 but did not have a good shooting night.
As most people expected, the game got a bit chippy at times with hard screens and some “friendly” shoving. Portland jumped out to 39-25 lead at the end of the first quarter behind the Moda Center crowd.
Portland tightened up its defense in the second half. It was a block party for Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu. Evan Turner turned it up too, coming up with crucial steals.
In the finals minutes, the Trail Blazers closed out the game by hitting clutch free throws, getting stops, and Enes Kanter gobbling up offensive boards, as Portland beats OKC 104-99.
The Blazers now take the 1-0 advantage in the best of seven-series.
Here are some quick thoughts from the Blazers Game 1 victory:
1. Ball movement opening up the perimeter for Lillard and McCollum
The Blazers started the game playing a little inside, outside game. Plus, Portland made sure to zip the ball around the three-point line to find the open man. CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard both got clean looks early. The Blazers backcourt duo took advantage of it too, both starting the game off going 2-for-2 from three.
Portland as a team went 7-of-10 from three-point range in the first quarter. Shooting well from deep was an emphasis for the Blazers heading into the series after having so much trouble from long distance against the Thunder in the regular season.
Lillard and McCollum were not messing around. When they got open looks, they took them. It is apparent these two learned a lot from their last first round series against the Pelicans.
Seth Curry carried the three-point load early in the second quarter. For the first half, three-point shooting was the difference in the game. Portland led 54-48 at the break after hitting 9-of-17 from three to the Thunder’s 2-of-18 from deep.
2. Playoff intensity crowd – plenty of cheers and boos
The Trail Blazers came out of the gate with the intensity you expect in the postseason. Blazers fans did the same.
Here’s a short list that got the Moda Center crowd really going on Sunday:
-The Blazers hitting from deep
-Hard screens set by Meyers Leonard
-CJ McCollum and Terrance Ferguson getting into at the free throw line, which resulted in offsetting technicals
-Lillard at the free throw line (MVP chants a plenty)
-Whenever Raymond Felton checked into the game or caught the ball (So. Many. Boos.)
-Thunder calling a timeout after Blazers extending the led back up 10 with 2:41 remaining in the third
-OKC getting called for the offensive fouls
-When Westbrook air balled it from the corner… Or really when he did anything you could expect boos
-#LillardTime three-pointer with less than three minutes left in the game
3. OKC shot selection
In the first half, it looked as though OKC was settling for tough shots or just not hitting wide-open ones. The second half didn’t go much better for the Thunder.
OKC could not buy a basket, especially from three. After three quarters, the Thunder were 3-for-24 from three. The bad news for the Blazers – Oklahoma City was awful from three and yet the Thunder were still able to keep the game close. A big reason for the Thunder sticking around was the fact that OKC was able to snag offensive rebounds.
You have to imagine OKC and Paul George particularly will not shoot this bad in any other game the rest of this series.
NEXT UP: The Trail Blazers and Thunder will tip-off Game 2 on Tuesday night at 7:30pm. You can catch the game on NBC Sports Northwest. Our pregame coverage starts at 6:30pm.
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