(NBA playoffs) One-up for PortlandSports | 15 Apr 2019 10:13 am
After eight straight playoff losses over the past two years, the Portland Trail Blazers finally got a win.
Damian Lillard scored 30 points and the third-seeded Blazers opened their series against the No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday with a 104-99 victory.
Portland were swept by New Orleans last season and the Warriors the year before.
Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who were making their sixth straight postseason appearance. CJ McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds despite a rough shooting night.
Westbrook appeared to hurt his right ankle in the final quarter and grimaced while trying to walk it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench at the next timeout but he returned and his layup closed the gap to 91-87 with just under 4 minutes left.
After trailing by 19 points in the first half, Oklahoma City pulled within as 93-92 on George’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left. Lillard answered with a long 3-pointer to keep the Blazers ahead and Al-Farouq Aminu made free throws to extend Portland’s lead to 98-92.
George made a 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining to get the Thunder within 100-97 but Portland hung on.
It was the first postseason meeting between the teams since the Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.
The Thunder have been to the playoffs every season since moving from Seattle in 2008, but they haven’t gotten past the opening round for the past two seasons.
George was nursing a sore right shoulder and was considered day-to-day for Sunday’s game but he started. However he was just 1 of 6 from the floor in the opening quarter. For the game, he made four of 15 3-point attempts.
George missed the Thunder’ regular-season finale Wednesday at Milwaukee because of the nagging injury, which also kept him out of games on Feb. 28, March 2 and March 3.
McCollum missed 10 games down the stretch with a left knee strain and had only played in two games since returning. But he started and hit his first two 3-point attempts.
The Blazers’ hopes for postseason success were dealt a blow last month when center Jusuf Nurkic was lost for the season with a broken left leg. Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds when he sustained the gruesome injury during a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Kanter, signed just before the All-Star break after he was waived by the New York Knicks, has started in Nurkic’s place.
The Thunder rallied from a 19-point deficit in the first half to trail by just 54-48 at the break. But they struggled from 3-point range, making just two of 18 attempts.
There was simmering tension between the teams. Terrance Ferguson and McCollum had a heated exchange in the second quarter, earning technical fouls. Ferguson earned his third foul and headed to the bench.
Westbrook’s layup got the Thunder within 64-60, but he collected his fourth foul late in the third and went to the bench. The Blazers went into the fourth quarter with a 76-69 lead.
The Thunder’s only lead was in the opening quarter.