Trail Blazers Return Home To Run The Thunder

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Blazers might have gotten their home schedule off to a tough start this season, but there's still nothing like being home for the holidays.

After spending the last two weeks on the road, the Trail Blazers returned home and promptly ran their opponent Wednesday night, the Oklahoma City Thunder, out of the building on the way to a 136-119 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,870 at the Moda Center on Thanksgiving Eve.

"That was a really good performance, particularly in the first and third quarters," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "We came out moving the ball, sharing the ball, making shots, on defense we were solid for the most part, so it was good to be home and good to play well."

The Trail Blazers are now 7-12 overall and 2-4 at home this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers have won consecutive games for just the second time this season and own a 2-0 season-series lead versus the Thunder.

The first home game after a long road trip is widely considered in NBA circles to be one of the harder games to win, and since the Blazers entered Wednesday's game after playing their last six on the road, it wouldn't have been all that surprising to see the home team struggle out of the gate.

But the exact opposite happened. The Trail Blazers made their first 10 shots and started the game 5-of-5 from from three to lead by as many as 23 points in the first quarter. Hassan Whiteside was particularly effective early, scoring 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting while also grabbing six rebounds in the first eight minutes of the game.

"Great start," said Stotts. "(Whiteside) had the full package again, he had it all. He’s got good touch in the paint, and I thought our guys did a good job finding him, and he did a good job finishing, and he was a big part of that first quarter."

From there on, the game was an exercise in Portland maintaining a double digit lead. The Thunder got the lead down to single digits early in the third quarter after Terrance Ferguson made two free throws to cut the advantage to 68-59 with 9:53 to play in the third quarter.

But the Blazers weren't going to be denied just their second win at home of the season, especially not in Carmelo Anthony's Portland debut. The Trail Blazers reestablished their flow on offense and proceeded to outscore the Thunder 36-18 in the remainder to the third to take a 104-77 lead into the fourth quarter.

"It's a game of runs," said Lillard. "You're never going to just come out and just make a run and the team is going to lay down. It's a long game in the NBA and you know, at some point, they're going to make a run and it's about how you handle it. I think they cut it to nine in the third quarter and our communication stayed the same. We didn't put our heads down, we didn't start saying 'ah man, here we go' and 'this is why it's happening.' We just kind of was like, 'let's start moving the ball, we've got to communicate more, let's get more aggressive on defense.' We did that and the lead went back up and I think we was able to do that because of, going back to Chicago, us kind of addressing those things and coming in with a different mentality."

From there, the Blazers would swell their lead to 35 before turning the game over to the deep bench early in the fourth. While the 17-point loss might not qualify as respectable, it did serve to make the game look closer than it actually was.

"I think we’re going in the right direction," said Stotts. "We played well against Chicago and we played well tonight, but there’s going to be other teams coming up that pose other problems and were going to have to figure those out. But I think we’re going in the right direction."

TOP PERFORMERS

The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard, who went 7-of-15 from the field, 5-of-9 from three and 8-of-8 from the free throw line for 27 points to go with five rebounds, five assists and a steal in 29 minutes.

CJ McCollum shot 50 percent from the4 field and 4-of-7 from three for 22 points to go with four assists and two rebounds. Rodney Hood missed just one shot and made all four of his three-point attempts to finish with 14 points in 25 minutes.

Hassan Whiteside finished with a double-double of 21 points and 16 rebounds in 22 minutes. Anfernee Simons came off the bench to score 14.

And then there was Carmelo Anthony, who made his home Trail Blazers debut Wednesday night after signing with the team during their now-completed road trip. The 17-year veteran followed up his 25-point performance in Monday night's victory in Chicago with a 19-point, four-rebound performance in front of an appreciative crowd.

"He’s had two good games in a row," said Stotts. "I thought he played obviously very efficient, he was able to score on the block, he creates a problem... The thing about Melo is that you feel his presence on the court, you know he’s out there, you have to account for him, he gives us a different dimension at the offensive end that we’re able to take advantage of. He draws a lot of attention, he’s a willing passer, he’s a very good passer, and I think the more were able to do that the more the other four guys on the court can rely on him.”

Four Thunder players finished in double figures led by 23 points from Abdel Nader.

NOTABLE

• The Trail Blazers outscored the Thunder 42-26 in the first quarter. Portland’s 42 points marked its highest-scoring quarter this season.

• Portland had 23 assists, marking their eighth straight game with 20+ assists.

• The Trail Blazers shot 49-of-94 from the field (52.1%), out-shooting the Thunder, who were 39-of-88 (44.3%) from the field.

• Portland recorded 54 rebounds, their fourth game and second consecutive contest with 50+ rebounds.

• The Trail Blazers had all five starters in double-figures for the second consecutive game.

• The Trail Blazers were 24-24 from the FT line. Portland is the first time in the NBA this season to be perfect from the stripe while attempting 20 or more FTs.

QUOTABLE

"It was surprising, but I think people, they see how kind of genuine this is for me. It's not nothing fake. This is authentic, this is who I am, this is genuine. This is real love at the end of the day and I think people can sense when it's not. I think that's what we're dealing with here." -- Carmelo Anthony on the Moda Center crowd chanting his name in the fourth quarter

NEXT UP

After spending the Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends, the Trail Blazers return to the court to host the Bulls, a team they defeated by 23 points in Chicago less than a few days ago, on Black Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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