Thunder avoid disaster; sweep Trail Blazers, 118-112

nike promo web

new balance
free keto book


It was more difficult than most imagined, but the Oklahoma City Thunder eventually took care of business against the Portland Trail Blazers, 118-112.

With the tight standings, the Thunder avoided disaster in a pseudo-must-win game against a depleted Trail Blazers. The Thunder have now won eight consecutive games against the Trail Blazers.

Despite the victory, it’s hard to avoid the foul taste that came with this win.

The Trail Blazers played their reserves as they were without Damian Lillard (calf tightness), Jerami Grant (quad contusion), Anfernee Simons (foot soreness) and Jusuf Nurkic (knee soreness).

Even though fans might not be pleased with how close this win was, Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault understands that wins don’t always come easy — especially against players fighting for their careers.

“When guys that don’t have regular opportunities — especially when they’ve learned that they’re not getting regular opportunities and then they get an opportunity — the level of motivation is high,” Daigneault said. “That’s the circumstance (the Trail Blazers are) in right now. They got a lot of guys out and these guys are getting opportunities and when that happens, guys are going to step up and they’re going to play really hard.”

Building off of Daigneault’s sentiment, the Trail Blazers forced the Thunder to play a four-quarter game.

A slow start plagued OKC with a 37-25 deficit following the first quarter. The Trail Blazers started the game hot from 3, shooting 6-of-9 in the first quarter. A 43-point second quarter helped the Thunder wash away the slow start.

Alas, the sense of urgency disappeared following halftime.

The Thunder once again played lethargic to start the third quarter as the Trail Blazers used an 11-0 run to retake the lead.

The Thunder eventually escaped with a win as they used a 22-18 fourth-quarter advantage to close out the victory. An 11-1 fourth-quarter Thunder run helped create distance in the scoreboard.

The distance was quickly erased as the Trail Blazers stormed back.

After the Trail Blazers cut OKC’s lead to two points with 2:34 left, the Thunder finished the game on a 7-3 run to cap off the season sweep.

See also  Anthony Edwards puts Kevin Durant in his all-time starting five

Without their four best players, the Trail Blazers were led by the young duo of Shaedon Sharpe and Nassir Little — who both scored career highs.

Sharpe finished with 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting and went 8-of-11 from the free-throw line. Off the bench, Little finished with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting.

For the Thunder, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points on 17 shots and Jalen Williams scored 23 points on 14 shots. Isaiah Joe added 20 points off the bench.

Facing an opponent with nonexistent rim protection, the Thunder outscored the Trail Blazers inside of the paint, 56-42. The Thunder also enjoyed a 29-11 points off turnovers advantage as they forced 18 turnovers.

“It wasn’t a pretty game — by any stretch — it wasn’t our best game, but given the circumstances, it required a level of resilience and toughness out of our team and I thought we had that to win the game,” Daigneault said.

Let’s take a look at Thunder player grades.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: A+


Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was his usual awesome self with 31 points on 9-of-17 shooting. Like most nights, Gilgeous-Alexander made several trips to the free-throw line as he shot 13-of-15. He also added four steals and three assists.

The Trail Blazers had no real answer to stop Gilgeous-Alexander as he scored 18 points on 9-of-14 shooting inside of the paint.

During the third quarter, it appeared Gilgeous-Alexander landed awkwardly off of a drive as he was visibly limping. Panic struck through the fanbase as he checked out of the game.

Thankfully, it looks like the Thunder avoided disaster as Gilgeous-Alexander re-entered the game and played nine fourth-quarter minutes.

“He gutted it out. He had some weight on the ankle, so he’s not 100%,” Daigneault said, “but was obviously good enough to go back.”

The Thunder are going to need Gilgeous-Alexander for every game from here on out if they want to make the Play-In tournament. He is the face of the franchise and easily the best player on the Thunder.

See also  Heat set NBA record with 40-for-40 night at free throw line, capped off with Jimmy Butler game-winner

Jalen Williams: A


(Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)

Speaking of important players, Jalen Williams has established himself as the second-best player for the Thunder since the turn of the year.

Against the Trail Blazers, he continued to strengthen this with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting, five rebounds and four assists. This included another highlight J-Dub dunk that shook the rim.

Williams also went 2-of-2 from 3. After a slow start from outside, he’s shot 43.3% from 3 on 2.9 attempts since the beginning of February.

Isaiah Joe: A


(Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images)

After a mini-shooting slump that saw Isaiah Joe go 0-for-7 from 3 in his previous two games, he caught fire in Portland.

In 28 minutes off the bench, Joe finished with 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting and went 5-of-10 from 3. He also added five assists and seven rebounds.

Joe made up most of the Thunder’s bench scoring, as the rest of the reserves combined for 14 points. He did most of his damage in the second quarter, where he got hot from outside and scored 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3.

After a couple of off nights, Joe played a key role in this important win. He was also part of a couple of special sequences that will make the highlight reel of this game.

The first happened in the second quarter. After Joe hit a 3, he stole the ball from the Trail Blazers’ inbound pass and hit another corner 3 to cap off the possession.

It was a neat 6-point play in 18 seconds that was essentially self-created by Joe’s hustle.

Speaking of hustle, Joe also did an awesome job at drawing a crucial charge in the third quarter that stopped the Trail Blazers from getting the crowd going due to a Shaedon Sharpe alley-oop dunk.

Mimicking his Arkansas teammate Jaylin Williams, the skinny 6-foot-3, 165-lb Joe laid his body on the line to stop the transition dunk that would’ve given the Trail Blazers massive momentum.

See also  ‘Jayson Tatum for MVP,’ says Hall of Fame Celtics big man Kevin Garnett

Lu Dort: D-


Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Oh boy, where to start with Lu Dort?

It wasn’t a good shooting game for Dort, to put it lightly. He finished with six points on 2-of-14 shooting and went 0-for-6 from 3. This included going just 2-of-8 from inside of the paint as he continues to struggle with his finishing.

This was especially highlighted in the fourth quarter, where Dort shot 2-of-6 in a close contest.

This game adds to the disturbing trend for Dort where he’s been one of the worst finishers around the rim this season — and really, his whole career.

According to Cleaning The Glass, Dort is in the 10th percentile among wings for field goal percentage at the rim (four feet or less) at 49%. Last season, he was in the 16th percentile. The season before that, he was in the 13th percentile. In his rookie season, he was in the 27th percentile.

Not good.

The only saving grace from grading Dort with an F was the fact that he scored the game-sealing dunk after forcing a steal.

“I thought his last stint (in the game) was his best stint,” Daigneault said. “I thought that’s when he played closest to his identity… He didn’t shoot it great tonight, obviously, but I thought he was trying to make the right plays with that stint, which is all you can ask for.”

It was just a tough outing for Dort despite the win.

Josh Giddey: B+


Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

With his outside shot falling, Josh Giddey turned in a quality start for the Thunder.

Giddey finished with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and went 3-of-5 from 3. He also added 11 rebounds and six assists to collect the double-double.

Giddey only scored three fourth-quarter points, but they were massive as they gave the Thunder a five-point lead with 2:14 left.

“Big shot, obviously,” Daigneault said on Giddey’s late 3. “… Josh stepped into it with confidence and knocked it down.”


Story originally appeared on Thunder Wire

nike promo web

anti radiation
new balance

Source link

crypto quantum