OKC Thunder rebound vs shorthanded Blazers – player grades

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OKC Thunder

JANUARY 18: Damian Lillard #0 of the Portland Trail Blazers shoots the ball against the OKC Thunder (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)

The OKC Thunder needed a win after a few tough losses and took advantage of a shorthanded Portland Trail Blazers squad to get back on track. Grades offer insights into the contest.

The OKC Thunder finished their back-to-back set by snapping a three-game home losing streak with a complete end to end victory over the shorthanded Blazers team.

Nothing was typical about this match as both squads have players nursing injuries but the Blazers arrived without a few extra bodies based on a trade they made earlier today. Portland sent Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two, second-round picks to the Kings in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel, and Caleb Swanigan. For more on the trade click here.

In terms of injuries, the Blazers were also without CJ McCollum who tweaked his ankle on Friday in their loss to the Mavericks. On the home side, the team elected to rest Danilo Gallinari and Terrance Ferguson was still out with illness but Steven Adams was back displaying his typical iron man self.

This meant the starting rotation for the Thunder looked vastly different as Hamidou Diallo and Darius Bazley got the tap to replace TFerg and Gallo.

Portland Trail Blazers
Oklahoma City Thunder

It’s been tough sledding for the OKC Thunder who’ve allowed elite teams to grab early leads. The resulting effect is the club having to dig out of big holes throughout the rest of the games and in the case of both the Raptors and Heat came up just short.

Fortunately, this squad doesn’t have a problem learning from their mistakes and tonight offered a perfect example of their mettle.

It was clear from the tip the Thunder weren’t going to let Portland get the upper hand early as  OKC was the aggressors taking the opening frame 32-24.

The Thunder entered the break up 64-57 having lost the second quarter by a single point. The other frame which has typically caused problems is the third, but OKC kept their aggressive stance on high and won both the third and fourth quarters to net the easy victory.

Every little run the Blazers attempted was thwarted by the Thunder who discovered it’s much easier to win when you hold the lead and can simply run your plays and defend to stop momentum shifts.

Despite being without two key starters the trio of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Chris Paul and Steven Adams provided the calming effect and with the two youngsters allowed their athleticism and vitality to assist their efforts.

A good win — and one the club needed to purge the bad taste of those recent losses from memory.

On to player grades.

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