Even Superman can't stop the blaze

Westbrook's 58pts not enough as Portland team effort hands Thunder 4th straight loss

Portland guard Damian Lillard driving to the basket after evading a block by Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook. Seven Trail Blazers racked up double figures in their 126-121 win.
Portland guard Damian Lillard driving to the basket after evading a block by Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook. Seven Trail Blazers racked up double figures in their 126-121 win.PHOTO: REUTERS

OKLAHOMA CITY • Portland knew they would be seeing a Russell Westbrook with fire in his eyes.

With Oklahoma City riding a three-game losing streak, it was inevitable that he was going to throw on the cape and pull out a Superman-type performance.

However, the Trail Blazers had the perfect counter. With seven players scoring in double figures, it was enough to hold back a career-high 58 points from Westbrook, as Portland defeated Oklahoma City 126-121 in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on Tuesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

"Russ is incredible, no doubt about it," Blazers forward Meyers Leonard said.

"Extremely talented, able to make plays for others. Able to score the ball obviously, rebound, defend, everything.

"But that being said, it sometimes becomes a one-man show. But I think it's to our credit, top to bottom we had a lot of guys contribute. We were sharing the ball and we believed in what we were doing. This was a very big win for us."

Westbrook shot 21 of 39 and had nine assists. He was the only Thunder starter to register an assist.

Victor Oladipo scored 16 points in his first game back from injury and Enes Kanter came off the bench to score 11 points for Oklahoma City (35-29).

Allen Crabbe posted 23 points to lead Portland. Damian Lillard scored 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting, while C.J. McCollum added 21 points for the Blazers (27-35).

"Up and down, all nine guys who played made a contribution," Portland coach Terry Stotts said.

"I think we are playing better. It can be fleeting, so I don't want to go overboard. But I think we're playing pretty positive with how we're playing."

Both teams started the night at a breakneck pace. They combined for 69 points, seven three-pointers and 13 assists, as Oklahoma City led by 11 after one quarter.

The 40 points the Thunder posted were the most they have scored against the Blazers in any quarter this season.

The pace and shot-making slowed down considerably in the second quarter. That is except for Westbrook. The guard dropped in 16 points in the period alone and gave Oklahoma City a 67-61 half-time advantage.

While he was playing like a one-man gang, the Blazers spread the wealth throughout the line-up.

Not only did Lillard and McCollum cause havoc, Crabbe, Leonard, Al-Farough Aminu and Noah Vonleh all found success exploiting a porous Oklahoma City defence.

A nail-biting final few minutes saw the Thunder stay in touch without managing to overhaul the Blazers. Westbrook crucially missed three consecutive shots as the Blazers took a 118-116 lead with only 41.9 seconds on the clock.

Jusuf Nurkic increased the lead to four points with a right-hook shot but the Thunder immediately made it a 119-120 game when Oladipo made an arcing three-pointer.

Two more McCollum free throws put the Blazers three points ahead with 15.1 seconds remaining. A final attempted three-pointer from Westbrook missed the target and the Blazers sealed the win with a 4-2 run, extending the home team's losing streak to four.

Westbrook said the level of defensive intensity the team are playing with is unacceptable for this time of the year.

"We don't really have time for that," he said. "This time of the year when you have to be playing your best basketball, and figuring out how you want to move forward."



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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2017, with the headline 'Even Superman can't stop the blaze'. Print Edition | Subscribe