NBA Playoffs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trail Blazers

Trail Blazers make plays to take close Game 1 from Thunder

The Trail Blazers and Thunder played a tight, physical game right down to the wire. In the end, Portland made the plays to get the win.

On paper, Trail Blazers vs. Thunder looked like one of the first-rounds most interesting matchups. Game 1 certainly delivered with a narrow margin and theatrics right down to the final moments. The last three minutes of the first quarter included Damian Lillard and Paul George trading 3-pointers, Enes Kanter with clutch rebounds and the Trail Blazers hitting their free throws to close it out.

There are plenty of adjustments for both teams to make but if the rest of this series lives up to Game 1, we’re all in for a treat.

Portland Trail Blazers

104

Oklahoma City Thunder

99

Takeaways

Paul George is not healthy. Reports were that George would go through his pregame routine and decide afterward if the pain in his injured shoulder would be too much. He decided to give it a go and did his best in Game 1, contributing 10 rebounds and 4 steals but, offensively, this was one of the worst playoff games of his career. George finished with 26 points and 4 turnovers, shooting 8-of-24 from the field and 4-of-15 on 3-pointers. If he had been merely bad, and not terrible, Russell Westbrook and stout defense might have been enough for them to steal a win. If he had been shooting like he was for the first two months of the season, the Thunder would have won going away. Oklahoma City is a stool — Westbrook, George and the defense. If one of those legs falls away, the stool collapses.

Enes Kanter rose to the occasion. When it comes to replacing the injured Jusuf Nurkic a 20-18 double-double from Kanter was certainly a nice development. His offensive rebounding was clutch down the stretch and his driving layup helped ice the game. But it only worked because of his energy and effort on the defensive end. Kanter was still frozen on a few drives and late on a few rotations but showing up as an average defender is a huge win for Portland. His finishing and rebounding have a much bigger impact than Zach Collins’ shooting right now, so every minute the Blazers can survive with Kanter on the floor and not waving a white flag on defense in the paint is a huge advantage.

Next: Meet the 2018 NBA 25-under-25

Shooters gonna shoot. And bad shooters are gonna miss. Both teams have very reliable high-volume shooters — George for the Thunder, Lillard and McCollum for the Trail Blazers. George’s struggles aside, no one else on Oklahoma City was making shots tonight. Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, and Jerami Grant combined to go 0-of-14 on 3-pointers. For the Blazers, Rodney Hood and Seth Curry did their jobs and knocked down 3-of-4. McCollum and Lillard outshot George 8-of-18 to 4-of-15, the rest is history.

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