The first thing you could say about this game: a lot of things happened! So many incidents, events. A lot of things happened! It was like a Song of Ice and Fire book, all condensed into two and a half hours.
You’d would think, or I would think, I thought, the Thunder would probably come out a little flat, because, you know, two overtimes and an airplane ride last night. What did not occur to me when making this estimation was that Russell Westbrook is a human battery. He took the team, broken and beaten, and he reached out with his hand, and he fused with their bodies, as you would in a Cronenberg film, and gave them heaping servings of his life force and drove them like a horrible tank.
Westbrook was an absolute terror in the first half. He was also a terror in the second half, but he was an ABSOLUTE terror in the first half. The Blazers were deploying a really really terrible scheme against him in the first, not packing the paint enough and letting Lillard get beat off the dribble and the pick. Westbrook was living large at Rim Mansion, the mansion at the rim of the hoop, where the basketball goes in.
In contrast, the Blazers could NOT make shots at the rim. For instance: there was a fast break in the second quarter. Lillard shot the ball high to get it over Ibaka and missed. Then, Lopez grabbed the rebound, and missed a second time. Then Aldridge grabbed that rebound, went up, and was emphatically blocked by Ibaka. The ball sailed to the other end of the court and became a fast break attempt for the Thunder.
Oh, the Thunder, who, once again, should have been tired, ran all over the Blazers in the first half. By all rights, the Blazers 100% should have lost this game.
In the third quarter, the Blazers game out in a more aggressive, paint cloggy/Westbrook stoppy defense. It worked, for a while, and the team brought the score to within six.
But then, the saloon door swung open and Mitch McGary, a bottle of whisky in one hand, a cigar in his mouth, an old timey poro in the other hand, walked on in and started railing on the Blazers.
Why did McGary have a career game? I don’t know. No one knows. It was written in the stars. That is the only explaination for that real life, honest to God Dream Shake in the first half. He drove, he took passes from Westbrook and laid it in, he made some really beautiful passes of his own. You see a dude like McGary and you expect some grinder sandwich, but in reality he is this soft-hands Boris Diaw type. I gasped and fell off my bed (I watched this game in a bed.) when he tossed up one of those hook shots; his wrist action was perfect, like something out of a Degas painting.
At one point, Westbrook and McGary had themselves a big ol’ chest bump and a shared “YEAH! YEAH!” Are these men kindred spirits?
The Blazers came back within six again in the third, and lost that lead as well. A change needed to be made, for the sake of victory.
Sometime after Lopez ate an Ibaka pump-fake whole and allowed him to drive right at the rim and dunk, Stotts took him out of the game for good. He wasn’t getting it done at the rim tonight and if the Thunder were playing small, Afflalo would make more sense as a matchup.
The game ended with Lillard/Matthews/Afflalo/Batum/Aldridge. I would be interested to see how often this, or something like this, happens in subsequent games. Afflalo is the best Blazers bench player since, well, Nic Batum. He might be the best wing on the team, from a whole-career perspective. It might not be a optimal to nestle him on the bench in end of game situations.
In the fourth quarter, Westbrook’s legs finally gave out. He stopped attacking the rim, where he had been mutilating the Blazers all night, and started missing long two pointers instead. See, look, it actually happened, it’s documented:
The Blazers took the lead in the fourth behind shots by Afflalo and Aldridge, both of whom were very good tonight. The game seemed over after Westbrook overshot an attempt at the rim, Thunder, down one, less than a possession remaining. Afflalo made two foul shots, Thunder down three, no time outs. Westbrook has the ball. He is streaking towards the basket. The Blazers decide to foul. Wes lunges at Russell, who predicts the contact, and, more impressive than anything he did with points, rebounds, or whatever, was the first player to ever get a shooting foul called behind the three point line when the other team is trying to intentionally foul.
If the universe had a defined order. the player to get this call would have been Chris Paul, who tries to milk this cow CONSTANTLY and NEVER gets the call. I could see him in front of his television, cursing god and the heavens, tears shed, another man got the gift I have been seeking my whole life.
Then, Paul would have missed the first shot, like Westbrook did. Fate, PUNISHING Chris Paul for his greed! Instead, fate punished Westbrook for no reason in particular. He makes the next two (probably should have tried to miss the last one.), intentional foul shots, Westbrook gets a giant fucking dent in his face, Thunder can’t get it in, Blazers win.
-Meyers’s three point shot looks like Luke Babbit’s.
-Dion Waiters is riding that slow train to China, man. He takes some irredeemably bad shots out there. Also he plays a lot of minutes. The Thunder are hilarious.