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Six Things We Saw: Blazers 106, Thunder 89

Thursday, October 30, 2014

 

The Blazers eventually ran OKC's mash unit ragged while providing a few gravy train highlights despite a transfixing early performance from Russell Westbrook.

TURNING POINT: Damian Lillard's first three. Portland's All-Star point guard had a rotten first half. He took five shots and missed them all. Towards the end of the third quarter, though, Lillard shook off the early malaise of opening night. With 10:41 left in the final period Lillard drained a deep three. The Blazers went up four, the crowd went wild, and Oklahoma City called timeout, hoping to stem the tide. But by then it was too late. From there on out, the Blazers ran away with it.

X-FACTOR: Depth. The Thunder were were without more than just reigning MVP Kevin Durant. They had no Reggie Jackson, Jeremy Lamb or Anthony Morrow. In all, Oklahoma City had just nine in uniform Wednesday night, and only three of them were guards. While Westbrook carried the Thunder early, Portland's depth caught up. As the game went on, the Oklahoma City's aggression waned as Portland substituted fresh lungs. In the fourth quarter it showed, as the Blazers outscored the Thunder a staggering 31-to-12.

It's also worth mentioning that when the bench players took over in the second and third quarters, Portland's second unit regained leads each time. To be sure: topping the reserves of OKC's mash unit reserves is hardly worth writing home about. It merely underscores how long it's been since the Blazers' bench have been able to pull their own weight. 

GRAVY TRAIN HIGHLIGHT: Batum to Aldridge on the break. With a comfortable lead midway through the fourth quarter, Nicolas Batum all put the cherry on top. The Frenchman snatched a cross court pass, dribbled behind his back on the break and hit a streaking LaMarcus Aldridge for the alley-oop jam. If there was any question before--and, with the crowd at their back, there really wasn't--Batum's play slammed the door.

FUN FACT: The Blazers won their 14th-straight home opener.

MVP: LaMarcus Aldridge. As he is wont to do, Portland's power forward got things going early. In the first half Aldridge poured in 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. He finished with a team-high 27 points. The performance was classic Aldridge: score early, and seed the clutch shots to Lillard late.

HONORABLE MENTION: Russell Westbrook was absolutely marvelous. While Aldridge began the first half of the first game on a tear, Westbrook was otherworldly. At the intermission he had a whopping 26 points, including a buzzer-beating dunk that made me, his teammates and even some of the Rose Garden faithful gasp. It was an impressive a combination of athleticism and competitive will as you'll see in the regular season.

In just 31 minutes of play, Westbrook finished with a game-high 38 points. And while the MVP distinction goes to a member of the winning team in all but the most radical of circumstances, Westbrook was truly radical.

 

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