The Oklahoma City Thunder had total control of the game last night when they hosted the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was Game 3 with Russell Westbrook out and the Thunder once again looked like they were on a mission to prove they can still be one of the best teams in the NBA without him.
The Thunder had caught Portland on a back-to-back and were playing at home and were taking advantage of the situation. The Thunder led by 12 at halftime and by as many as 16 in the third quarter.
Kevin Durant was leading the way with 36 points and 10 rebounds after three quarters and would take his normal rest to begin the fourth quarter with the Thunder leading by seven.
Portland began clawing back. They just stuck to their guns, contained Durant to just a point and pulled out the victory. Reggie Jackson, Durant and Serge Ibaka all missed free throws in the final minutes and the Blazers made just enough plays to get a 98-94 win.
The loss stings because the Thunder have up a big lead. They definitely had the game won and against teams that have been playing as good as Portland has this season, you don’t want to waste chances to get W’s, especially while Russ is out.
But right now, the Thunder need to look at more than just the win/loss column. It’s about developing players that will need to step up in the playoffs. It’s about continuing to have offensive rhythm and to be strong defensively.
Last night, the Thunder played well given their current situation. Just the end result was not ideal.
OKC held Portland to 39.6 percent shooting from the field for the game. Ibaka and Jeremy Lamb shot the ball well and got good shots throughout the game. Jackson struggled a little bit from the field but still showed signs of growth as the starting point guard. And most importantly, Durant was able to dominate even though he is now the focal point of any opposing defense more than ever.
The Thunder missed seven free throws for the game, a really high number for them. If they knock down their average and box out on that missed free throw late, they would have pulled out what would have been a close and impressive victory.
There is no reason to panic, Thunder fans. The team looked good again without Russ last night and that’s what’s important right now. We know that when healthy, there is no team as talented as OKC this season. So right now it’s all about developing the roe players and getting healthy for the playoffs. No need to dwell on the losses.