Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Game Recap – Feb. 27, 2015

PORTLAND – After nearly seeing the sun rise before arriving in Portland in the early morning hours on Friday, the Thunder turned around from a tough overtime defeat in Phoenix against the Suns to square off against the Blazers.

Regardless of any potential fatigue and injuries to Kevin Durant, Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, Head Coach Scott Brooks’ club did what it has all season long – refuse to make excuses and play as hard as possible. Unfortunately on Friday night against its Northwest Division rival, the high level of execution on both ends of the floor only lasted through three quarters, as Brooks’ club fell in the final minutes, 115-112.

“We had enough energy after a tough back to back,” Brooks said. “I thought we played well enough to win the game. They got some good breaks, but that’s part of it when you play on the road in a tough environment. Portland’s a good basketball team, we knew that going into the game. We knew we had to play well and I thought our guys did that.”

The Thunder hung around with Portland in the first quarter, then used a 10-0 run to turn the tide of the game in its favor during the second quarter. After outscoring the Blazers by 15 in the period, the Thunder entered halftime feeling good about its position. Coming out of the halftime break, however, Portland hit on a quick 7-0 run, making it a game once again.

Despite pushing the lead back into double digits throughout the game, the Thunder couldn’t quite put the Blazers away, leading to a 12-2 Portland run midway through the fourth quarter that made it a possession-by-possession game until the final buzzer sounded.

Russell Westbrook tied the game at 110 apiece with two free throws at the 1:48 mark, but that was the closest the Thunder would come to regaining its once formidable lead. The Blazers knocked down three consecutive free throws as Augustin and Westbrook missed shots on three straight possessions. With 2.5 seconds left, Westbrook miraculously manufactured a trip to the free throw line for three shots, but managed to hit just two out of three, and the Thunder’s Hail Mary heave before the buzzer bounced awry.

“Well we did a lot of things well throughout the game, but this a very good offensive team,” Brooks explained. “They have a lot of weapons and they’re healthy and they’re going to play good basketball, because they have a lot of good players.”

Despite the close loss, Westbrook once again was a marvel throughout the evening. The All-Star point guard became the first player since LeBron James in 2009 to register three consecutive triple doubles, this time racking up 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists while shooting 14-fo-32 from the field and 12-for-14 from the free throw line. Westbrook’s relentless spirit and attacking nature kept the scoreboard moving for the Thunder all night long.

“He has the heart of a champion,” Brooks said of Westbrook. “He comes out every night and there’s no excuses, ever. He plays the game with everything he has, and those are the characteristics of his entire career. He’s been a winner for a long time and he does it every night. He fills up the stat sheet and does whatever it takes to put his team in a position to win.”

Second Unit Shines

After the Thunder’s starters battled with the Blazers for most of the first quarter, Brooks’ squad needed a burst of energy to change the rhythm of the game. The second unit, spearheaded by Mitch McGary and Anthony Morrow, did more than oblige. By defending at a high level, forcing the Blazers to start cold in the second quarter and shoot just 6-for-23 from the field during the period.

On offense, Morrow heated up from the outside, knocking down all four of his shot attempts, scoring all 13 of his points in the first half. McGary was consistently effective throughout the evening, rolling hard after screens on pick-and-rolls with Westbrook and DJ Augustin. He hustled in transition to beat Portland’s big men down the floor and ended up with a career-high 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting, to go with nine rebounds in 28 minutes.

“My name has been called and the opportunity knocked so I just need to come up and step up and play for my team when they need me,” McGary said.

Stats of the Night

3 – Consecutive triple-doubles for Russell Westbrook, the most since LeBron James in the 2008-09 season, as he registered 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists

20 - Points for Mitch McGary, a career-high, to go with nine rebounds in 28 minutes off the bench

21-7 – The Thunder’s advantage in fast break points on the night, as it held Portland to just three field goal attempts in transition

The Final Word

“I thought we did a lot of good things defensively. A couple of times we gambled too much and then they hit threes and they got to the free throw line too many times.” – Head Coach Scott Brooks