Portland's Big Three Bests Oklahoma City's For Victory

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers improved to 6-4 this season by defeating Northwest Division rival Oklahoma City Thunder 103-99 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 Sunday night at the Moda Center.

“Well it was good to pull it out,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “It got a little dicey there at the end but I thought we really played a pretty complete game. It got physical, we played through some of that. Dame (Lillard) really carried us with his offense and he was able to get to the rim and make good decisions when they double teamed him. CJ made some big shots at the end. So anyway, a quality win.”

The Trail Blazers have won three consecutive games versus the Thunder dating back to last season and have taken the last seven at the Moda Center.

Portland got off to a fast start Sunday night, thanks in large part to Damian Lillard’s playmaking. The 6-3 guard out of Weber State either scored or assisted on nine of Portland’s first 10 field goals. With Nurkić, who was on the receiving end of multiple Lillard dimes in the first quarter, going for 10 points and CJ McCollum going 3-of-3 from the field and 2-of-2 from three, Portland took a 28-20 lead into the second quarter.

“I liked the way we started the game,” said Lillard. “We came out with great energy on both ends of the floor. It was another game that we had to go out and take. It got tight down the stretch and we had to get stops and make free throws. We had to do those little things to finish it out and we was able to do it.”

After the Thunder cut the lead to 50-46 by the half, the Trail Blazers went on a 25-12 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half to take their largest lead of the night at 75-58 with 2:28 to play in the third.

But Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Raymond Felton stepped their respective games up in the fourth quarter after Carmelo Anthony was assessed a flagrant 2 and ejected for elbowing Nurkić in the face during a layup attempt. But after both teams traded three-pointers, Westbrook missed three straight free throws with 20 seconds to play, giving the Blazers just enough breathing room to come away with the four-point victory.

“They could have cut it to one right there and put a lot of pressure on us,” said Lillard. “When (Westbrook) missed the first one I was like ‘Okay, they could cut it to two and we could still make it a two-possession game.’ And then when he missed the second one I was like ‘Alright, I’m just gonna hold on to the ball.’ I don’t want a screen or nothing, I’m gonna score or get fouled or something. Once he missed the second one, in my mind, I was like we gotta put this away.”

The Blazers were led by Lillard, who went 10-of-18 from the field and 15-of-15 from the free throw line for 36 points while also handing out a season-high 13 assists. With the performance he became the first Portland player to score at least 36 points and hand out 13 assists in the same game since Clyde Drexler accomplished the feat back in 1986. Lillard, now with 9,151 points, also moved past Rasheed Wallace to claim ninth in franchise history in scoring. Lillard has now scored at least 30 points in four consecutive games.

Nurkić went 11-of-15 from the field for 25 points while grabbing eight rebounds, handing out three assists, swiping three steals and blocking two shots. CJ McCollum added 22 points while moving past Steve Blake and Cliff Robinson for sixth in terms of made three-pointers in franchise history. McCollum now has 496 three-pointers for his career after adding four to his tally Sunday night.

Though Lillard, Nurkić and McCollum all went for at least 22 points, no other Blazer scored more than six points.

The Thunder were led by George, who went 10-of-21 from the field for 27 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists. Westbrook added 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds to go with two steals in 35 minutes. Felton, who still hears choruses of boos every time he touches the ball at the Moda Center, went 7-of-11 from 15 points. Anthony also added 15 before his ejection.

Next up, the Trail Blazers continue a six-game homestand by hosting the Memphis Grizzlies Tuesday night at the Moda Center. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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