NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard and the Blazers are too much for the Thunder in Game 2

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum were too much for the Thunder, pushing the Trail Blazers to a blowout Game 2 win.

Through two games, the series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder has been sketched in by the stars. Paul George, with a bum shoulder, and Russell Westbrook have traded off having tough games — George in Game 1, Westbrook in Game 2. Neither has had the kind of elite performance that we’ve become accustomed to.

On the other side, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum have been sensational. McCollum led the team in scoring in Game 2, putting up 33 points on 22 shots, carving up the defense on the drive and raining in jumpers. A tight game in the first half quickly devolved into a blowout, with the Blazers backcourt making plays and the Thunder fumbling to keep up.

Portland Trail Blazers

114

Oklahoma City Thunder

94

Takeaways

The Thunder don’t have the shooters. It’s been the most obvious issue for the Thunder through the first two games of this series. A 5-of-28 performance in Game 2 brings them to 10-of-61 on 3-pointers in the series. Oklahoma City is obviously suffering from unlucky bounces and missing some shots they might normally make but this is not, like, totally unexpected. Paul George’s shoulder is bothering him and he’s been at 6-of-22 on 3s so far. But the other Thunder players, who are collectively 4-of-39 through two games, only made 34.1 percent of during the regular season. This is not a case of good shooters missing shots. It’s bad shooters missing more than usual.

The Thunder are getting the worst of Russell Westbrook. His Game 1 performance, a triple-double on 8-of-17 shooting, was not exceptional, by his standards. Game 2 was a disaster — another triple-double but 5-of-20 shooting and another 6 turnovers, running his series total to 11. So far in this series, he’s attempted 16 shots from outside the paint. He’s made two. With George at less than 100 percent and the rest of the supporting cast struggling to find a rhythm, the pressure is on Westbrook to pick up the slack. The end result has been him leaning into some of his worst habits.

Next: A historic loss could be the final wake up call the Warriors need

Damian Lillard is as good as he’s ever been. Last year’s first-round sweep at the hands of the Pelicans was, in large part, because New Orleans’ backcourt was able to bottle up Lillard and knock him off his rhythm with aggressiveness and physicality. His numbers this season have been good but somewhat less than great. However, he has been exactly what Portland needs, exactly when they need. He’s hit big shot after big shot, controlling the action and never letting the moment get on top of him or his team, the way it did last season. The Trail Blazers may still have a hard playoff ceiling but Lillard’s play is certainly moving it up.

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