Well, it was bound to happen at some point. It’s as the saying goes, “You can’t win them all.” Before last night, the Thunder were 5-0 on New Year’s Eve in the OKC era. Now, they’re 5-1.
Of course, this was also the first New Year’s Eve that Russell Westbrook was forced to miss because of recovery from a third knee surgery that will have him out until mid-February.
The bad news for the Thunder is that this loss now has them down 0-2 to the Blazers in the season series. With 2 games remaining, a January 21st contest in OKC and a February 11th contest in Portland, the best the Thunder can hope for now is to tie the season series. This is very unfamiliar territory for the Thunder in regards to the Trail Blazers, seeing as before the December 4th loss to them, the Thunder had beat the Blazers in 8 straight matchups. And looking at those two dates, it becomes fairly obvious that Westbrook will not be in the lineup for either game.
More bad news for the Thunder is that this loss came after blowing a 16-point lead.
The 1st quarter stayed pretty close, with a lot of back-and-forth. This quarter alone saw 6 ties and 10 lead changes, with the largest lead being the Thunder’s 6.
The 2nd quarter provided major false hope for the Thunder fanatic. At the 5:15 mark, with the score 40-36, two Kevin Durant free throws sparked a 12-0 run that put the Thunder up 16 (52-36). Although a 6-2 Blazer run before halftime cut the lead down to 12 at the half (54-42).
The 3rd quarter saw the Blazers slowly, but surely cut into the Thunder lead. There were no ties or lead changes in this quarter, but the Blazers still outscored the Thunder by 5 in the 3rd, and were headed into the 4th only down by 7 (78-71).
The 4th quarter was when the bottom fell out for the Thunder. The defense was nowhere to be found when the Blazers sparked an 12-2 run with 9:22 left in the game to claim a 1-point lead (87-86) with just under 4 minutes to play. The Thunder tried to hold them off, but in the end, they just let the Blazers build too much momentum in the 4th. It resulted in a 98-94 loss, dropping the Thunder to 25-6, while improving the Blazers to 25-7.
While Durant’s 37-point, 14 rebound double-double is nothing to scoff at, it failed to secure a Thunder victory. Serge Ibaka chipped in 17 points, Reggie Jackson added 12, and Jeremy Lamb dropped 10 from off the bench. Lamb’s 10 was actually enough to outscore the entirety of the Blazers’ bench, who combined for a grand total of 7 points.
The thing is, the Blazers have no need for bench scoring when the lowest-scoring starter, Robin Lopez, drops 12 points. Nicolas Batum added 15, Wesley Matthews posted 16 points, Damian Lillard dropped 21, and LaMarcus Aldridge had a 25-point 14-rebound double-double.
The Thunder at least have New Year’s Day to recover from the disappointment before they throw down the welcome mat for the Brooklyn Nets tomorrow night. Tip off is scheduled for 7pm CST, and will be broadcast via Fox Sports Oklahoma, WWLS The Sports Animal, and NBA TV.