Russell Westbrook, Thunder fend off Trail Blazers in Game 3 to pick up first win in series

Yahoo Sports Contributor
Yahoo Sports

After falling twice in Portland to kick off their opening round playoff series, the Oklahoma City Thunder finally found their footing in the postseason.

The Thunder held on late to beat the Trail Blazers 120-108 in Game 3 at Chesapeake Bay Arena in Oklahoma City on Friday night, picking up their first win of the postseason.

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After bouncing back and forth in the first half, the Thunder quickly mounted a 16-point lead to start the third quarter — thanks largely to Russell Westbrook.

Just minutes into the quarter, Westbrook shut down Portland guard Damian Lillard, coming from behind with a massive block.

He followed it up with an impressive and-one finish over Lillard just a possession later, and rubbed it in his face a bit, too.

The Thunder, at that point, seemed poised to run away with the game and grab their first win of the series.

Lillard, though, didn’t take that lying down. He quickly responded, clearly not appreciating being “rocked.”

Lillard took off after that point in the third quarter, dropping 25 points in the period and bringing Portland right back into the game. He was nearly unstoppable, shooting an impressive 8-of-11 from the field and 3-of-4 from the 3-point line. The 25 points marked the most he has ever scored in a quarter in the postseason, too. By the end of the quarter, Lillard and the Trail Blazers had cut the lead to just four points.

“In the third quarter, I knew I needed to be a little more aggressive so it didn’t get away from us early and just give us a chance to ... make it a five minute game,” Lillard said. “Keep it close, and then turn it into a late game where they got to go take it. I think we did a great job of that. That third quarter, I kind of had that in mind, just keep it close and make sure that we’re in striking range to steal one.”

Portland carried the momentum into the fourth quarter, too, and had it tied up less than 90 seconds into the final period.

Yet a 12-4 run over a near-four minute span late in the fourth quarter pushed the Thunder back into control and over the finish line to grab the 12-point win, their first of the series.

Westbrook led the Thunder with 33 points and 11 assists, shooting 11-of-22 from the field. Paul George added 22 points, and Jerami Grant finished with 18. As a team, Oklahoma City shot nearly 52 percent from behind the arc and outscored Portland by 13 from the free throw line.

Lillard led the Trail Blazers with 32 points and six assists. After his explosive third quarter, however, he only mustered three points in the fourth quarter. CJ McCollum finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, and Enes Kanter dropped 19 points.

Game 4 of the series will take place on Sunday night in Oklahoma City. Even though things didn’t go his way on Friday, Portland coach Terry Stotts said they don’t plan to adjust their strategy much heading into Sunday.

It’s already worked twice, after all.

“I can’t say that we really change too much,” Stotts said. “We won the first two games doing what we were doing. The priorities are still the same. We’ve got to keep them out of transition, (limit) Paul George pick-and-rolls, we’ve got to take care of the free throw line ... The priorities really haven’t changed.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their first win of their opening round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
The Oklahoma City Thunder picked up their first win of their opening round playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

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