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Oklahoma City Thunder: 3 takeaways from Game 1 vs. Blazers

16 April 2019
Oklahoma City Thunder: 3 takeaways from Game 1 vs. Blazers

Damian Lillard of the Blazers reacts after making a shot in a National Basketball Association playoff game against Oklahoma City.

The Thunder have been to the playoffs for eight of the last nine seasons, but they haven't gotten past the opening round for the past two.

However, the team probably approached this 2019 NBA Playoffs series with the Portland Trail Blazers with a bit of confidence.

Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.

The victory not only put the Blazers up 1-0 in the best-of-7 series, but snapped a 10-game playoff losing streak for the Portland club.

No, it was that Kanter was playing at all, against his former teammates nonetheless, that made his Game 1 performance so memorable.

George was nursing a sore right shoulder and was considered day-to-day for Sunday's game but he started.

"We know how it feels to win again", Lillard said.

Some of that improvement, at least relative to the matchup with the Rockets, was displayed early in the season when the Jazz claimed the first two meetings with Houston by a total of 38 points. Westbrook led the way for OKC, finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists on 8-of-17 shooting. But Kanter, signed just before the All-Star break after being waived by the New York Knick, has proven ad admirable fill-in. But they struggled from 3-point range, making just two of 18 attempts.

Seth Curry made consecutive 3-pointers but the Thunder rallied in the final six minutes of the half to trail by just 54-48 at the break.

The teams went back and forth in the third quarter - Portland pushing their lead back to double-digits, the Thunder responding with a charge to draw closer.

There was simmering tension between the teams.

Westbook's layup got the Thunder within 64-60, but he collected his fourth foul late in the third and went to the bench.

The never-quiet Kanter first took it to the Thunder, who traded him to the Knicks in 2017 in the Carmelo Anthony trade, and then he redirected his focus toward those Knicks, who bought him out during a miserable season. With the Blazers clinging to a four-point lead and desperate for a bucket, Kanter rumbled from the perimeter with the shot clock trickling down and finished a did-that-just-happen left-handed scoop shot, pushing the Blazers' lead to 100-94 with 11.4 seconds left.

"A lot of times, you get a reputation and the reputation kind of sticks with you, whether you deserve it or not", Stotts said.

The Oklahoma City Thunder look to level the series against the Portland Trailblazers at the Moda Center in Game 2 on Tuesday.