Game 3 Notes: Enes' Hand, Moe's Fouls And Zach's Technicals
After winning the first two games of the series in Portland, the three-seed Trail Blazers now have the daunting task of facing the six-seed Thunder in Oklahoma City in Game 3 Friday night in Oklahoma City (tipoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Northwest, Rip City Radio 620 AM and ESPN). A few notes on the upcoming matchup from the last few days of practices at Chesapeake Energy Arena…
• Despite being the higher seeded team in the series, the Trail Blazers were generally considered the underdog versus the Thunder, primarily due to Oklahoma City sweeping the season series 4-0 and concerns about Portland’s playoff readiness after being swept in the first round of the 2018 postseason. But after taking the first two games of the three-six matchup, with the most recent win coming by 20 points, the conversation has turned from whether the Blazers could win the series to whether the Thunder could even win a game.
But the Trail Blazers aren’t buying that narrative. They fully expect to get Oklahoma City’s best effort in Game 3 Friday night, and are preparing themselves for an early onslaught led by Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
"It's different playing against a team on your home floor versus on their home floor," said Damian Lillard. "You know they have a great crowd here, so you know it's probably going to be the toughest game of the series up to this point. Just excited about the opportunity to come out here and get another win."
Blazers center Enes Kanter, who played 179 games for the Thunder before being traded to the Knicks, said his experience playing in front of the fans Oklahoma City has given him some insight into what to expect in Game 3.
"I know the crowd going to be crazy," said Kanter. "I expect the crowd to be crazy and I expect the Thunder to be attacking more, definitely, and be more aggressive offensively and defensively. But I don't think we should be worried about anything. We just need to go out there and play our basketball.
Who's ready for some Friday night playoff hoops?
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 19, 2019
• After joining Bill Walton and LaMarcus Aldridge as the only players in franchise history to score at least 20 points and grab at least 18 rebounds in a playoff game, starting center Enes Kanter was limited to six points and five rebounds in 20 minutes during Portland's 114-94 victory in Game 2 Tuesday night at the Moda Center. Kanter was called for three fouls in the first half, which was the primary reason for his relatively scant playing time, though he also injured his right hand late in the second quarter.
An x-ray taken at halftime reveled no significant damage, though it obviously bothered the 6-11 center for the duration of the game.
Kanter said after shootaround on Friday that he was still experiencing some discomfort, but that it was hardly something that would keep him out of a playoff game.
"It's good actually, still a little hurts," said Kanter. "I don't think it's 100 percent, but it's the playoffs, you have to be 100 percent every game. So I'm just not going to worry about it, just go out there and play."
• Over the course of two games, Trail Blazers starting forward Moe Harkless has been primarily responsible for defending six-time All-Star and 2018-19 MVP candidate Paul George. And through two games, he's held the 6-9 forward out of Fresno State to 26.5 points on 43 percent shooting from the field and 27 percent shooting from three, which is about the best you can hope for against a player of George's caliber.
"I think it tough, when you're guarding someone like Paul George in the situation that he's in, it's hard to say 'I'm gonna hold him to 20 points' because he might shoot 30 times," said Harkless. "If anybody shoots 30 times, especially an All-Star, they're gonna score. But it's not easy for them and that's my main thing. I'm going to make him work hard to get what he's going to get. It's not going to be like during the regular season when he's getting 40 and a triple-double. That's unacceptable. That's what we're not going to let happen."
The Blazers have tried to make the game as physical as possible for George, as evidenced by Harkless picking up 10 fouls over the course of 51 minutes though the first two games. And while Harkless certainly isn't trying to foul out, he is willing to do so if the situation calls for it.
"I've got six fouls, I can't carry them over to the next game," said Harkless. "If I foul out, as long as I didn't foul out in the first half, it's fine with me. I'm out there, I'm being physical, I don't expect not to get fouls called. Obviously I'm not trying to foul out, but if that happens, it happens.
"At the end of the day, if I'm using my fouls, I'm being felt. So it's like, it's having an impact on the game. If I don't have any fouls, I don't feel like I did my job well enough."
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) April 19, 2019
• After a tough Game 1, Trail Blazers reserve center Zach Collins had a bounce-back effort in Game 2, finishing with six points, four rebounds, three blocks and a steal in 14 minutes. The 7-0 second-year big also had a run in with Thunder forward Markieff Morris, with the two receiving offsetting technicals at the end of the first quarter of Game 2. While it was his first technical in the 2019 postseason, it's not the first time he and Morris have had words.
"He goes in there and that's kind of one of his jobs, to come in and kind of muck it up and be that tough guy," said Collins. "Honestly, I'm not out there going to talk crap to anybody, he's kind of initiating everything. I guess that's what he's going to do the rest of the series, but I think I said it after last game, I think we're so locked in and we all have a goal and I think we learned from last year that we have to come out and be the guys that hit first. If they hit first, we've got to absorb it and we've got to match their physicality and I think that's what we've been doing. That's what we've got to continue to do."
Collins has found himself exchanging pleasantries nose-to-nose with opponents on a regular basis since being selected after one season at Gonzaga with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 Draft. He's not entirely sure why he consistently has run ins with the likes of Klay Thompson, Joe Ingles and Morris, though he also notes that he doesn't mind the back-and-forth as long as he's not being a detriment to his team.
"I don't know if they see me as an easy target or someone they want to get out of the game or whatever," said Collins. "It is what it is. I've been kind of dealing with it for a while, so I think the big thing for me is to not go back at him to where it hurts the team. (Game 2) it was good, it was double techs so it kind of cancelled each other out. But again, I can't be put in a position where I can't be on the floor for my team or I get a tech and they get multiple free throws and it changes the game, so I really want to stay away from that."