The Oklahoma City Thunder got on the board with a 120-108 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 on Friday as the series shifted to Chesapeake Energy Arena in OKC.
Damian Lillard had 32 points and six assists for the Trail Blazers in a losing effort, and CJ McCollum contributed 21 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Steven Adams Provides Thunder Necessary Depth to Rally
Oklahoma City will only go as far as Westbrook and George can carry it, but Steven Adams' play could go a long way in determining if the Thunder can rally from an 0-2 series hole.
As George and Westbrook struggled to find their respective shots early on, Adams provided OKC with stability. He dropped eight points in the opening two quarters while shooting 4-of-5 from the field.
The rest of the Thunder shot just 39.3 percent in the first half.
Adams finished the game with 10 points and seven boards. That comes after he averaged 16.5 points and nine rebounds in the first two games. He is shooting 71.4 percent through the front three games.
He gives the Thunder a major paint presence while taking some of the pressure off George and Westbrook. With the 7'0", 265-pound center playing at a high level, it creates space for others to get shots up on the outside.
Jerami Grant (4-of-5) and Terrance Ferguson (3-of-4) combined to make seven three-pointers Friday.
In a series that is being billed as Westbrook and George versus Lillard and McCollum, Adams has the ability to make an impact as a big man. Portland center Enes Kanter recorded a defensive rating of 111.5 between the Trail Blazers and the New York Knicks this season—and he has done little to slow down his former teammate to this point.
Hero ball has not worked for the Thunder in the post-Kevin Durant era, as Oklahoma City won just three playoff games the last two years. With Adams playing the role of a reliable third option behind George and Westbrook, OKC has enough firepower to potentially get out of the first round for the first time since 2016.
Road Woes Could Derail Trail Blazers' Postseason
Portland may have one of the best one-two punches in all of basketball in Lillard and McCollum, but that hasn't resulted in much postseason success to this point.
And it's all because of the team's inability to win away from the Moda Center.
Portland tied for the third-best home record (32-9) in the NBA during the regular season and defended home court in the first two games of this series. On the flip side, though, the Trail Blazers went just 21-20 on the road during the regular season, which put them in a tie for the third-fewest among Western Conference playoff teams.
While they gave it a good fight Friday, they once again came up short in an opponent's arena.
The Trail Blazers have now lost eight consecutive postseason road games dating back to 2016. Since McCollum entered the league in 2013, the Trail Blazers have made the playoffs six consecutive seasons and have only managed to win three games away from during the postseason:
- 2014: 2-4
- 2015: 0-3
- 2016: 1-5
- 2018: 0-2
- 2019 0-1 (so far)
Road wins are undoubtedly tough to come by in the playoffs, but championship teams find a way to at least steal a game here and there. That's something that has eluded Portland for the most part in recent years.
The Trail Blazers dug themselves a double-digit deficit early on by shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor during the first half while committing 14 turnovers and 15 fouls. While they shot 55.8 percent and had just four turnovers in the second half, they couldn't quite complete the comeback.
Not even Lillard's 25-point third quarter was enough:
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As the third seed, Portland can advance to the conference semifinals just by protecting home court. However, barring any upsets in the other series, they will have to find a way to win on the road if they hope to get past the second round for the first time since 2000.
Oklahoma City will have the opportunity to try to even the series Sunday, with Game 4 being played at 9:30 p.m. ET.