No. 4 Trail Blazers @ No. 8 Thunder
The Oklahoma City Thunder entered this matchup with a dire need for a win as the playoffs approached and the New Orleans Pelicans shared the eighth seed owning the tiebreaker. The Thunder held onto a 43-37 record after a 116-104 loss to the Indiana Pacers the night before, and the Portland Trail Blazers came to town with a 51-29 record sitting comfortably in the fourth seed.
It was the final home game for OKC as 18,203 fans swarmed Chesapeake Energy Arena, but the Thunder, led by head coach Scott Brooks, would have to put together a strategic game plan with Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka out of the starting lineup due to injury.
Thunder fans may remember the 2014-15 season as the season that was over before it even began due to the copious amounts of injuries the Thunder roster dealt with. For Ibaka, a knee surgery would keep him on the bench, and for Durant, his season was cut short back in February as he would undergo bone graft surgery in his right foot.
The Trail Blazers were without one of their star shooting guards as Wesley Matthews season came to an abrupt end on March 5 due to a torn left Achilles tendon. Matthews was a prolific three-point shooter for the Blazers averaging 16.1 points and shooting 39 percent from downtown. This was a major loss for Portland.
- Russell Westbrook G
- Dion Waiters G
- Enes Kanter F
- Andre Roberson F
- Steven Adams C
- Damian Lillard G
- C.J. McCollum G
- Meyers Leonard F
- Nicolas Batum F
- Robin Lopez C
The Thunder held nothing back as Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter came out firing. Westbrook, whose technical foul from the night before was lifted allowing him to suit up, knocked down 11 points on 4-7 shooting going 2-2 from deep, while Kanter picked up 12 points of his own on 6-10 shooting along with seven rebounds.
Meyers Leonard had the hot hand for the Trail Blazers finishing with seven first-quarter points with backup center Chris Kaman coming off the bench to knock down eight of his own on 4-5 shooting.
Dion Waiters put together a complete first quarter with eight points, three rebounds, and three assists to lead the Thunder to a dominant first-quarter showing outscoring the Blazers 35-21 and paving the way for an exciting game in front of OKC’s home crowd.
Thunder leads 35-21.
Poor offensive performances and three turnovers from Russell Westbrook cause the Thunder to have their worst quarter in months. Westbrook led the Thunder with six points, but his inability to take care of the ball allowed the Blazers an opportunity to claw back into the game.
Meyers Leonard had another big performance shooting 50 percent from the floor for five points and two rebounds, while power forward Joel Freeland came up big off the bench going 3-3 for six points.
The Trail Blazers would outscore the Thunder 21-14 going into halftime setting up the second half of play to bring out the competitiveness in guys like Westbrook who combined with Enes Kanter for 32 first-half points.
Thunder leads 49-42 at halftime.
The third quarter for the Thunder was much like the first as Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter served as a power duo and a force to be reckoned with. Westbrook set up his crafty shots splitting the defense and finishing big at the rim for 13 points.
Kanter shot 5-6 from the floor for 11 points picking up three more rebounds to complement his eight from the first half. Kanter, in his first year with the Thunder after being traded from the Utah Jazz, was averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds since joining OKC.
The Blazers strongly utilized their bench in quarter three paving the way for guys like Alonzo Gee, Joel Freeland, and Chris Kaman to have big performances aided by Damian Lillard’s four points. Portland would put together a more complete quarter with every guy on the floor contributing, but OKC would power through to outscore the Blazers 32-28.
Thunder leads 81-70.
It was all in or nothing for the Thunder as the fight for the final playoff spot in the West was looming over them like a nightmare. A win for OKC, as well as a loss for the Pelicans, who were playing the Timberwolves in Minnesota during this game, meant the Thunder could shoot to the eighth seed and fight for chance in the playoffs.
Scott Brooks went with his full Thunder starting lineup as Russell Westbrook and Enes Kanter continued to prove they couldn’t be stopped, while Terry Stotts opted for a heavy bench appearance to aide Meyers Leonard and Robin Lopez.
Westbrook and Anthony Morrow fought through a tough Blazers’ defense to combine for 14 points, while Leonard shot 3-5 for nine points to even out the final-quarter scoring, but a powerful start for the Thunder, as well as dominant offensive performances coming out of halftime led OKC to defeat the Trail Blazers and pick up win No. 44 at the final buzzer.
Thunder wins 101-90.
- Russell Westbrook: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals
- Enes Kanter: 27 points, 13 rebounds, 1 assist
- Dion Waiters: 13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
- Meyers Leonard: 24 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
- Joel Freeland: 16 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
- Chris Kaman: 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist
Fans may remember:
The 2014-15 season would serve as Scott Brooks’ final season as head coach in Oklahoma City. The University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan was hired on April 30, 2015 to serve as the Thunder’s new head coach. Scott Brooks was hired as the Washington Wizards’ head coach on April 26, 2016.
The New Orleans Pelicans, as well as the Thunder, won their final games on the 2014-15 season, but with the ownership of the tiebreaker in the Western Conference, the Thunder did not participate in the NBA Playoffs this season.
The Portland Trail Blazers finished the season as the fourth seed in the West at 51-31, but their playoff didn’t last long after being eliminated in the first round falling to the Memphis Grizzlies in a 4-1 series.