April 19, 2019

Defensive keys to shut down Trail Blazers offense

15 April 2019, 05:12 | Anna Jefferson

LC Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Sean Meagher Staff

Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. Sean Meagher  Staff

Paul George was playing like a legitimate candidate for both MVP and Defensive Player of the Year only to suffer from a shoulder injury that limited him to just 40.0 percent shooting from the field and 33.6 percent from the 3-point line after he'd shot 45.3 and 40.6 percent respectively before the midseason festivities.

Meanwhile, the Portland Trailblazers got swept by the Thunder in the regular season, but you wouldn't know that from the way they played as they stormed out of the gates with 39 points in the first quarter, started by Damian Lillard who drained a deep 3-pointer from 30-feet just seconds after tipoff.

CJ McCollum added 24 points and Enes Kanter contributed 20 points and 18 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who led by as many as 19 points in the first half. The Thunder defense was again good, holding the Blazers to just 37 percent shooting and 0-of-1 from three, but Kanter contributed six points and six rebounds in the third to keep pace. Steven Adams had 13 points for the Thunder, who were 2 for 18 from 3-point range in the first half.

Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double.

McCollum missed 10 games down the stretch with a left knee strain and had only played in two games since returning.

Portland slithered its way into the number 3 seed while Oklahoma City jostled at the bottom of the pack before securing the 6 seed in the final night of the regular season, with help from Portland no less.

The Thunder will be kicking themselves as they could've stole Game 1 if they didn't allow the Trailblazers to get off to such a hot start.

The re-aggravation of a right shoulder injury from the end of February sidelined George in the Thunder's 127-116 win at Milwaukee Wednesday. But he started and hit his first two 3-point attempts.

Portland jumped out to a 26-15 lead early on McCollum's third 3-pointer. For the game, he made four of 15 3-point attempts. The Blazers went into the fourth quarter with a 76-69 lead. Tales of the tape will help players and fans understand how OKC can gain the upper hand in what is sure to be a hard first-round series.

Lillard wasted no time to get in the scoring column in this one, pulling up from the Moda Center logo for his first bucket of the game.

"We just want to look for another opportunity to get into the playoffs this year and prove it up, redeem ourselves and that's all we can do".

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