The Portland Trail Blazers knocked off one of the best teams in the NBA in interim coach Kaleb Canales’ first game at the helm.
Kicking off his career with back-to-back victories could prove even more difficult with a road game against Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City up next - even with the Thunder surprisingly struggling a bit on their own court.
The recently overhauled Trail Blazers conclude a seven-game road trip Sunday night against Oklahoma City, which after dominating opponents at home for much of the season has dropped three of four there.
A 121-79 rout at the hands of New York on Wednesday proved to be the final straw for coach Nate McMillan, who was fired the following day after six-plus seasons with the team. Portland continued to shake things up by sending former All-Star Gerald Wallace to New Jersey and center Marcus Camby to Houston for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a couple of draft picks.
At least for one game, the moves appeared to work, as the Blazers (21-23) won 100-89 at league-leading Chicago on Friday.
“Just a special time for us as a team, as an organization, as a family. All the credit goes to the guys in that locker room for helping to get it,” Canales said. “Obviously a special win with everything that’s been going on. I’ve very blessed and fortunate to get this great opportunity, very humbling.”
Portland limited a Bulls team missing Derrick Rose to a season-low 10 points in the fourth quarter, handing them just their fourth home loss.
“Whenever you can see a young guy get an opportunity to be a head coach, you definitely want to go out there and get a win for him,” said forward Kurt Thomas, who at 39 is five years older than Canales.
The Thunder (33-11) have also only lost four home games, one of them coming to Portland by a 103-93 score Jan. 3. The other three, however, have come in a one-week span.
Oklahoma City’s second straight home defeat came by a 114-105 score to San Antonio on Friday. The Thunder, who trailed by as many as 27 in the second quarter, were outrebounded 49-37 and outscored 54-36 in the paint.
“We can’t be relaxed because we’re at home. Just because we’re at home, we’re not going to win games,” said forward Kevin Durant, who scored 25 points.
“We’ve just got to come out with a sense of urgency, play harder and we’ll be all right.”
Oklahoma City also fell 104-103 to visiting Houston on Tuesday. The Thunder haven’t dropped three straight at home since a six-game skid March 18-April 7, 2009, in their first season since relocating from Seattle.
“(Our home crowd) does a great job of encouraging us, they should have booed us in the first half (Friday) but they didn’t,” Durant said. “They kept us in it. We owe them a lot. It’s tough to lose in front of them like that but we got another game coming up here soon.”
The Thunder took the most recent meeting in this series, overcoming a season-high 39 points from LaMarcus Aldridge in a controversial 111-107 overtime road win Feb. 6. Durant scored 33 and made a tying layup with 6 seconds left in regulation that came on a questionable goaltending call on Aldridge.
It’s uncertain when Flynn and Thabeet will debut for the Blazers. Okur - acquired largely for his expiring contract - and Williams are expected to miss the rest of the season due to injury.
The Thunder’s Daequan Cook (right shoulder soreness) is uncertain to be available after sitting out Friday.