In an aggressive and often overly physical game unrestrained by officiating, the Trail Blazers could not overcome a 39 to 24 free throw disparity, and fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder in game three, 120-108. The Blazers were beat on Friday night, but they were not defeated. The still lead the series 2-1, and walked away confident in their place in the series, despite the loss.
It was a night that seemed all to indicative of a Thunder win. Two different fans hit half court shots to win twenty grand in the opening quarters. The Thunder had a fluky night on offense, shooting an atypical (15-29) 51% from the arc. Three of the Blazers starters had 4 or more personal fouls. The Blazers had a mostly self imposed fourteen turnovers in the first half.
The Blazers despite a bad shooting start, led after the first quarter. Then came the poor performance by Portland’s bench, who were hampered by foul calls that had the distinct impression of being one sided. From then on it seemed to be, as Lillard put it,“ a quick whistle to every bump, every little grab and contact.” The Blazers didn’t panic. They didn’t play any less physical, fouls non-withstanding. They showed composure. They kept shooting. They made the Thunder beat them from the free throw line, the only way it was going to happen.
Damian Lillard scored 25 of his 32 points in the third quarter bringing Portland back from a 16 point deficit, as the Blazers outscored the Thunder 43-37. Lillard exploded hitting several contested threes off screens as commentators argued over the color of the Thunder’s jerseys. The Thunder lead collapsed, and was only four at the end of the Lillard show. The Thunder were up 86-82 heading into the fourth. If Lillard had stayed in the parade might still have continued.
McCollum took over to begin the fourth, tying the game 89-89 on a three off a screen out front, and looked like the Thunder were going to choke. But, then came the fouls again. The Thunder built their lead to 10 before Terry Stotts was hit with a technical foul, fed up with the Thunder being allowed to get away with overtly illegal physical play. The fouls continued to mount, the Thunder living at the free throw line the rest of the quarter. The Thunder took 15 free throws in the quarter, 8 of those in the last three minutes.
The Blazers starters were pulled with less than a minute left, and the Thunder up 10 points.They waved the white flag tired of the shenanigans. For some reason, Paul George unnecessarily stayed in. At the Buzzer he showed a disrespectful and feckless disregard for the game. He went up for a tasteless reverse double pump dunk. So much for his injured shoulder. That dunk was meaningless on the stats sheet. It happened after the game clock expired and wasn’t recorded. But, it had meaning and it was an emphasis on something that if not already clear, was made so. The Thunder are a classless act. They lack humility and character.
Their immature taunting only highlights their insecurities and their fear. They can rock the baby, imitate Lillard’s call sign, or dunk at the Buzzer all they want. It is not a show of strength. It is an ugly attempt to bring the Blazers down to their level. But, Lillard and Co. could care less. They will not play by the Thunder’s rules. The Blazers will not lower themselves to such crass behavior. They possess all the things the Thunder don’t. The Blazers have more humility, respect, integrity, and poise in their pinky than the Thunder do in…well you get it. The Thunder found themselves in the eye of the storm, able to steal one, but the worst for them is coming.