Oxygen removal

The Blazers came out breathing fire, and the Thunder were being burned badly. And suddenly the wind, or something, changed: OKC finished the first quarter on a 15-0 run, and the Portland offense went asthmatic. It was 66-42 at the half, 102-72 after three, and fifteen seconds into the fourth, something happened to one of the nets. (No, not one of the Nets; I’m talking an actual physical net.) If nothing else, it gave the fans a chance to, um, catch their breath. Garbage time ensued quickly thereafter, and after a terrible post-All-Star start, it was something of a relief to see a team, and a potential playoff team at that, pounded into tapioca. Oklahoma City 128, Portland 94, going up 2-1 in the season series. (In each of those games, the home team won; the fourth game will be at Portland on the 6th of April.)

The Damian Lillard/C. J. McCollum combine, so explosive so often, were pretty well snuffed out tonight: they managed 36 points between them, but it took them 33 shots, and only one other Blazer — Al-Farouq Aminu — scored in double figures. While Portland was adept at the foul line, making 25 of 27, they shot only 34 percent from the floor, and for a team that regularly nails the trey, 7-27 is — well, the Thunder has had worse games than that. Not tonight, though. Russell Westbrook, with yet another triple-double (17-10-16), retired early, Kevin Durant (20 points) even earlier, and Enes Kanter, given more or less free rein, turned in a 26-point outing, a new season high. Even Nazr Mohammed, who was not expected to do anything more than provide locker-room inspiration in these final days, hit a bucket.

Next three games are on the road: at Boston (Wednesday), Philadelphia (Friday), and Indiana (Saturday). Both the Celtics and the Pacers appear headed for the post-season. However, the Sixers, who aren’t going anywhere, are looking for that tenth win, which would guarantee them a better finish than the ’72-’73 Sixers, who hold the NBA record for futility at 9-73. After that Thunder loss to the Timberwolves, I think I’d be very wary of Philadelphia.

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