In what will surely be remembered as the best basketball game to occur on April 3, 2021 (by the way, I wonder what happened at Gonzaga-UCLA) the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 133-85. CJ McCollum was Portland’s leading scorer with 20 points on the night, while Kenrich Williams led OKC with 18 points off the bench.
You can find Dave Deckard’s summary of the action quarter by quarter in our Instant Summary. Here are five observations from tonight’s action.
This was an honest blowout. There was never a doubt that the Blazers would win, and it never should have. A Thunder team that doesn’t have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander or Al Horford? Yes, this was probably not going to go well for OKC.
Still, it’s good for the Blazers to bury an opponent regardless of skill level. Remember, Portland played a game last week where the Orlando Magic lined up what was technically an NBA team, but barely. It was much closer than it should have been. Portland needs to steer away teams like that, and it was a pleasure to see them do it tonight.
Enes Kanter effective from the bench
Not that anything else was expected, but Enes Kanter has been pretty good off the bench since the return of Jusuf Nurkic. Kanter is making life miserable for second units with his relentless pursuit of rebounding, generating additional possessions. Tonight he had 12 points and 17 rebounds. I have a feeling he will have a few more double-doubles off the bench this season.
Far from NORM-al
Norman Powell has been very good to the Blazers since joining the club in the NBA Trade Deadline. He is an effective offensive player and also a solid defender. He may not have a game where he finishes +54 in plus-minus like former Blazer Gary Trent Jr. did for the Toronto Raptors, but we’ve seen how Powell can be effective.
Tonight, Terry Stotts allowed Powell to create. I’d like to see more of that. Powell knows how to shoot. Why not put the ball in your hands more when Damian Lillard or McCollum are on the bench? Why not let Lillard go crazy without the ball while Powell takes control? Stormin ‘Norman isn’t a great passer, but I don’t see how letting Lillard get off the ball every now and then can be a bad thing. The Blazers could be more creative with the way they wear Powell.
Good defense or bad offense?
The Blazers technically had a good defensive game. The Thunder committed 22 turnovers, a peak season for a Blazers opponent this year. They shot below 40% from the field and made less than 30% of their 3s. They just couldn’t create anything on their own thanks to the Blazers putting on the clamps.
However, I don’t see this game as a good barometer of Portland’s defense. This Thunder team didn’t feature even an average shot creator. The best of them may have been rookie Theo Maledon, and he went 1 of 12. This was a good defensive game for Portland, but not enough to re-evaluate them.
Moses Brown, anyone?
One final thought, because there is so much to learn from a game like this: it was fun watching Moses Brown tonight! It’s been great to see him do well with the Thunder, landing a long-term contract, even if that contract has more loopholes than one can count. His good game means it’s worth at least a couple of minutes of his time to think about whether it would have been worth keeping Brown close to Portland.
Okay, maybe not to really play. It was legitimately horrible every time he stepped onto the court last year for the Blazers. But his case is one that makes me wonder how wonderful it would be if Portland had a direct affiliate of the G-League to develop guys like Brown. He worked hard to develop his body and use it in a way where he can at least hit big numbers, especially in the G-League. I still don’t think he’s particularly good, but I’m also happy that he now has a shot at an NBA career. His track record solidifies Portland’s need for a G-League team.
Until next time
The Blazers will then head south to Los Angeles to face the Clippers. They will play on Tuesday at 7 pm PT.