Blazers Take Care Of Business In Wire-To-Wire Win Versus Thunder

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- While the Trail Blazers have generally played well this season, there have been a few area of concern. Their defense isn’t where it needs to be, they’ve had players in and out of the lineup due to injuries and they’ve struggled at times beating the better teams in the Western Conference. But even though there have been difficulties, one thing they’ve excelled at this season is beating the teams that they should beat.

And the current iteration of the Oklahoma City Thunder are absolutely a team the Trail Blazers should beat. And they did.

The Trail Blazers ended a three-game home losing streak with a 133-85 wire-to-wire victory versus the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team short on bodies and veteran talent, Saturday night at the Moda Center.

“It was good to have a night like this,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “In a game like this it’s easy to let your guard down, to have some lapses, but I thought we stayed pretty focused throughout the game.”

Portland is now 30-19 overall and 15-10 at home this season. They have now won their last two games versus the Thunder and have taken the 2020-21 season series 2-1. The 48-point margin of victory is Portland’s largest ever at the Moda Center.

While the Trail Blazers do have a habit of letting teams stick around, even if they eventually come away victorious, there was very little intrigue at any point in Saturday’s contest versus a Thunder team playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lugentz Dort, Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala. Though they weren’t flawless, the Trail Blazers still managed to get just about anything they wanted when they tried, going up by as many as 21 points in the first quarter before taking a 65-46 lead into the intermission.

If there was any thought of a second-half Thunder rally -- and to be frank, it’s hard to assume there was -- it was scuttled early in the third quarter. After the Thunder scored the first four points of the third to get the lead down to 15, the Trail Blazers went on a 23-1 run over the next four minutes to take an 88-51 lead, effectively ending the game.

“I really liked the demeanor of our starters,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “The first quarter defensively, we got off to a good start. And the second half, we got off to a good start at the beginning of the second half, so that really set the tone.”

The Blazers extended their lead to 45 by the start of the fourth, and other than seeing what the likes of Harry Giles and CJ Elleby could do with a full quarter of play, the only question was whether Portland would match or surpass a 50-point margin of victory, their largest in franchise history. They would end up two points short.

Eight Trail Blazers finished in double figured led by CJ McCollum, who went 8-of-14 from the field for 20 points, four rebounds and four assists in 26 minutes. Damian Lillard added 16 points, six assists, three rebounds and three steals, though his 25 minuets might have been his most important stat Saturday night.

Norman Powell had 15 points, four rebounds and three steals in 24 minutes. Enes Kanter had a double-double of 12 points and 14 rebounds to go with four assists, a steal and a block in 30 minutes. Nassir Little, who returned to the lineup Saturday after missing the last four contests with a sprained right thumb, went 5-of-7 for 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists.

Anfernee Simons contributed 16 points in 22 minutes and Giles surpassed the total number of three-pointers in his career in just 16 minutes, going 3-of-3 from deep on the way to 12 points.

Next up, the Trail Blazers hit the road for two games versus two of the better teams in the Western Conference. The two-game trip starts Tuesday in southern California with a contest versus the L.A. Clippers at the Staples Center.

“We’ve got a couple tough games coming up on the road,” said Stotts. “The Clippers are a tough team on the road. I don’t know that this (game) will necessarily carry over, but it was good to bounce back from the Milwaukee game.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.


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