Well that was fun.
To watch at least. On the court, throughout this first-round series between the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and No. 6 Oklahoma city Thunder, the competition between Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook seems a bit, ah ... intense.
Ya know, since first there was this:
And then this:
And then, over the next 9:50, there was this:
After Lillard's playoff career-best flurry in the third closed the gap, the lead kept creeping just beyond the bramble in front of the Trail Blazers. Eventually, Westbrook (33 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists) and the Thunder closed out a crucial 120-108 victory to stall the series at 2-1, Portland.
And then, in the closing moments, Paul George saw fit to put a point on the evening's on-court festivities, taking a final-seconds turnover and opting to ascend for a 180-double-pump-reverse dunk as time was expiring. That went over exceptionally well with Lillard, who claimed he "couldn't care less" while managing to insinuate if one were to care, if that level of effort could possibly be justified by such an action, that perhaps it was wildly out of line and that was obvious to anyone watching AND CAN WE JUST TIP OFF GAME 4 ALREADY?!!!??!
(The full quote, for the record: "I don't know. It was after the clock, but just doing that, whatever. I don't really care. It's the playoffs -- people do things that, maybe they're trying to get under somebody's skin. Or maybe trying to make a statement. The game was over. The game was decided. Typically, people say you don't do stuff like that, but honestly I really couldn't care less. The game had been decided and if that was something they needed to do to make themselves feel more dominant or feel better, then so be it." Dame Time runs 24/7. Never forget.)
The sneaky truth of this series is that Lillard is doing the superstar thing of pushing Portland beyond what would seem to be their season limit, given the debilitating and untimely injury to Jusuf Nurkic, and a first-round opponent almost tailor-made to drag down his individual game. Friday's OKC victory required a monster (efficiency) effort from Westbrook ... along with a team-wide uptick from 3-point range, led by Jerami Grant's 4-for-5 showing. If George continues to struggle through the shoulder injury that derailed a once-clear-cut case for No. 3 in this season's Kia MVP race, the Thunder might not be able to generate much disruption the rest of the way.
Brown races away, Kyrie closes it out
The Celtics jumped all over the Pacers early in Friday's Game 3 victory, opening a 41-28 lead after one. The surprise scoring leader was third-year swingman Jaylen Brown, who put up 12 points in the quarter, hitting all four of his shots (three from behind the arc).
But down the stretch, it was -- of course -- Kyrie Irving who helped ice these feisty Pacers:
"The little floating shot he hit was just a joke," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "He's ridiculous."
Irving finished the 104-96 win with 19 points, five rebounds and 10 assists. Another ho-hum day at the office. Ha.
Siakam socks 'em
Pascal Siakam is (one of) the favorite(s) for the Kia Most Improved Player Award, and performances like Friday's are a prime reason why. The third-year forward posted 30 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists in 41 minutes as the Raptors cruised to a 98-93 victory that never felt quite as close as that final score indicated.
Also, he faked Terrence Ross out of his socks:
Didn't hurt that Kawhi Leonard was out here on his usual ridiculous terrorize-both-ends tip, even after not having practiced for two days due to illness, per coach Nick Nurse postgame.
Presented without comment
A thing that happened today, in which choices were definitely, definitely made:
not sure what to caption but whoa this is something pic.twitter.com/Jc3SdNyaN5— LeagueFits 💧 (@leaguefits) April 20, 2019