On Friday January 4th, 2019 the Western Conference’s third and fifth best teams, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers, met in Portland. This was the first contest between these two North West Division rivals this season.
The Thunder who lost all four contests to Portland last season were looking to break that streak tonight after winning Wednesday night against the Lakers and were on a two-game win streak.
As for the Trail Blazers, they have beaten the Thunder six consecutive times and were looking to make it seven in a row.
The Trail Blazers were coming off of a 113-108 overtime victory over the Sacramento Kings and were also on a two-game winning streak.
Trailblazers' center Jusuf Nurkic had an outstanding effort recording 24 points, 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals, and 5 blocked shots in that win against Sacramento.
Tonight, however, the Thunder trailing 62-57 at halftime used a 36 point third quarter to get control of the game leading 93-87 after three quarters.
This was a close game throughout and Portland were only down by two possessions 109-103 with 1:57 to play.
C.J. McCollum hit a foul line jumper with 1:07 to play. After Paul George was stripped, on the next possession Lillard was fouled on a three-point shot attempt with 42.8 seconds to play and made two of three foul shots bringing the Trailblazers to within two points.
Westbrook missed his next shot. Portland did as well when Lillard missed a runner and McCollum missed a second chance shot.
Paul George made two free throws with just 4.3 seconds on the clock giving the Thunder a 111-107 lead. The Thunder broke the six-game losing streak to the Trail Blazers and the near five-year losing streak in Portland by winning 111-109.
The talking points from this matchup are as follows:
#3 The all-star point guard matchup
Both of these teams are similarly constructed. Both have a tough rebounding center who dominate around the basket in Jusuf Nurkic and Steven Adams.
Both teams have a complimentary star perimeter wing players in C.J. McCollum and Paul George.
Both teams are driven by potential MVP candidates at the point guard spot in Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. This was the key one on one matchup to watch in this game.
Coming into this game Lillard was averaging 26.7 points and 5.8 assists on 45% field goal shooting and 39% from behind the arc in 38 games.
Russell Westbrook, a walking triple-double was averaging 20.7 points, 10.1 assists and 10.9 rebounds in 29 games.
It was Westbrook who won this match up scoring 31 points, dishing 7 assists and grabbing 9 rebounds. Lillard ended with a -8 for the game and had 23 points on 7/19 shooting as his shot went cold late in the third quarter. Lillard did distribute 8 assists in this game.