Sunday, 16 June, 2019

Trail Blazers hold off Thunder to win opening matchup

Portland's Damian Lillard is tripped by Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook at Moda Centre in Oregon on Sunday. The Blazers won 104-99- their first play-off victory since the 2015-16 season Damian Lillard Calls Enes Kanter 'The MVP' Of Game 1
Sidney Guerrero | 15 April, 2019, 17:13

The Thunder defense arrived in the second quarter, holding the Blazers to 30 percent shooting and just 15 points - which allowed OKC to chip away at the double-digit deficit. Portland led 39-24 after one, shooting 60 percent from the floor to overwhelm the Thunder in the early going.

The Trail Blazers were no less successful having gone 8-2 in their final 10 games with their last game being a 28-point comeback over the Sacramento Kings using only six players, none of which were Portland's typical starters.

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.

After trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half, Oklahoma City pulled within as 93-92 on George's 3-pointer with 2:44 left.

Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career postseason triple-double. This one could really go either way, so while I'm tempted to take the Thunder, I got this series going to seven games, so I'm taking the Trailblazers to secure home-court advantage with another narrow win and cover here behind another big game from Lillard.

The Thunder got to within 84-81 on a Dennis Schroder floater with 8:43 to go, but Kanter sank a pair at the line, and Lillard followed with a long-range 3-pointer and a runner to make it 91-81 with 6:20 remaining. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds but was just 8 of 24 from the field and 4 of 15 from beyond the arc.

It was the first post-season meeting between the teams since the Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City.

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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.

George missed the Thunder' regular-season finale Wednesday at Milwaukee because of the nagging injury, which also kept him out of games on February 28, March 2 and March 3. But he started and hit his first two 3-point attempts.

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. Portland went on to lead the opening quarter by as many as 17 points, paced by Lillard with 12 points.

"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".

"It's a series. First to four".

Game 1 is set for Sunday at 2:30 pm central time at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.

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