After eight straight playoff losses over the previous two years, the Portland Path Blazers lastly bought a win.
Damian Lillard scored 30 factors and the third-seeded Blazers opened their sequence in opposition to the No. 6 Oklahoma Metropolis Thunder on Sunday with a 104-99 victory.
“We all know the way it feels to win once more,” Lillard stated. “Now we will simply sort of transfer on from that and keep targeted on this sequence.”
Portland was swept by New Orleans final season and the Warriors the yr earlier than.
Enes Kanter added 20 factors and a profession playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who have been making their sixth straight postseason look. CJ McCollum added 24 factors.
Russell Westbrook had 24 factors, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth profession postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time determination due to a sore shoulder, added 26 factors and 10 rebounds regardless of a tough taking pictures night time.
Westbrook appeared to harm his proper ankle within the last quarter and grimaced whereas making an attempt to stroll it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench on the subsequent timeout however he returned and his layup closed the hole to 91-87 with just below Four minutes left.
Requested about it afterward, Westbrook stated: “We’ll see.”
After trailing by as many as 19 factors within the first half, Oklahoma Metropolis pulled inside as 93-92 on George’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left. Lillard answered with a protracted 3-pointer to maintain the Blazers forward and Al-Farouq Aminu made free throws to increase Portland’s result in 98-92.
George made a 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining to get the Thunder inside 100-97 however Portland held on.
“We knew it was going to be a battle all night time lengthy. Even originally of the sport once we have been up like 17 at one level, I wasn’t wanting on the scoreboard like, ‘Let’s put them away.” I used to be like, ‘Let’s simply keep strong, hold competing, hold enjoying laborious,’ Lillard stated. “After which once they make their runs, and once they get again within the sport, (you) simply climate these storms.”
It was the primary postseason assembly between the groups for the reason that Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma Metropolis.
Oklahoma Metropolis beat the Blazers in all 4 conferences this season, together with a heated 129-121 extra time victory on March 7.
The Thunder have been to the playoffs for eight of the final 9 seasons, however they have not gotten previous the opening spherical for the previous two.
George was nursing a sore proper shoulder and was thought-about day-to-day for Sunday’s sport however he began. Nonetheless he was simply 1 of 6 from the ground within the opening quarter. For the sport, he made 4 of 15 3-point makes an attempt.
“4 days in the past I could not even raise my shoulder,” he stated. “Then quick ahead to as we speak that is the primary day I’ve even shot the ball, so for me it is simply rhythm.”
George missed the Thunder’ regular-season finale Wednesday at Milwaukee due to the nagging harm, which additionally saved him out of video games on Feb. 28, March 2 and March 3.
McCollum missed 10 video games down the stretch with a left knee pressure and had solely performed in two video games since returning. However he began and hit his first two 3-point makes an attempt.
The Blazers’ hopes for postseason success have been dealt a blow final month when middle Jusuf Nurkic was misplaced for the season with a damaged left leg. Nurkic was averaging 15.6 factors and 10.Four rebounds when he sustained the ugly harm throughout a sport in opposition to the Brooklyn Nets.
Kanter, signed simply earlier than the All-Star break after he was waived by the New York Knicks, has began in Nurkic’s place.
The Thunder rallied from a 19-point deficit within the first half to path by simply 54-48 on the break. However they struggled from 3-point vary, making simply two of 18 makes an attempt.
There was simmering stress between the groups. Terrance Ferguson and McCollum had a heated alternate within the second quarter, incomes technical fouls. Ferguson earned his third foul and headed to the bench.
Westbrook’s layup bought the Thunder inside 64-60, however he collected his fourth foul late within the third and went to the bench. The Blazers went into the fourth quarter with a 76-69 lead.
The Thunder’s solely lead was within the opening quarter.
“It is a sequence. First to 4. They gained the primary sport,” Westbrook stated. “Now we make changes, come again, play tougher subsequent sport and attempt to take it.”
Thunder: Whereas the Thunder swept the Blazers 4-Zero throughout the common season, Portland swept them in 4 video games the season earlier than.
Path Blazers: Blazers coach Terry Stotts concluded his pregame speak with the media by saying. “All proper. Masters.” The Blazers have been 8-Eight within the postseason in opposition to the SuperSonics. … Portland had gained the final eight regular-season video games on the Moda Heart. … Kanter had his third playoff double-double. … The Blazers have not made it out of the primary spherical for the previous two seasons. Final yr as a No. Three seed Portland bought swept by the New Orleans Pelicans.
In simply his ninth begin with the Blazers, Kanter turned simply the third participant in crew historical past with a minimum of 20 factors and 18 rebounds in playoff sport. Invoice Walton did it 3 times and LaMarcus Aldridge as soon as.
“He gave us numerous toughness inside,” Stotts stated. “Clearly, his rebounding and scoring. I believed his conditioning was actually good. He maintained a excessive degree of play for a protracted time period.”
UP NEXT: Sport 2 is Tuesday night time on the Moda Heart.