After getting categorically outplayed by Damian Lillard through the first two games of this series, Russell Westbrook finally rediscovered his superpowers in Game 3 to propel the Thunder to a 120-108 win and avoid what would’ve been a nearly insurmountable 3-0 series deficit against the Blazers.
Now, the Thunder have a chance to even things up on Sunday in Game 4 at home and regain the momentum in a series that was quickly slipping through their fingers. Westbrook finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists on Friday night in Oklahoma City, taking his heated rivalry with Lillard personally and going at him with everything he had.
Lillard was just as spectacular, scoring 32 points to go along with six assists and four rebounds as he led a fourth-quarter rally that ultimately fell short, as Russ was able to knock down some key shots in the closing minutes to keep the game out of reach.
Russell Westbrook hits tough 3…points and yells at Damian Lillard pic.twitter.com/So4w1o4Rso
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) April 20, 2019
The first half of this contest more closely resembled a postseason game from the mid-90s as the score was tied at 27-27 midway through the second quarter, amid a barrage of sloppy play from both teams. By halftime, OKC had forced the Blazers into 14 turnovers and took a 10-point lead into the break.
After posting the worst three-point shooting numbers by a playoff team in league history (16 percent) through the first two games, the Thunder submitted their best shooting performance of the series in the first half, going 6-of-13 as a team. Dennis Schroder finally came alive for the Thunder, scoring 17 points off the bench, while he, along with Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant, broke out of their three-point slumps to give OKC some much-needed scoring from long-range as they combined to shoot 9-of-12 from downtown for the night.
The Thunder’s halftime lead ballooned to 16 in the third quarter behind some aggressive play from Westbrook, who relished every opportunity he got to take it to Lillard one-on-one.
Rock that baby, OKC. pic.twitter.com/lsoDmfghCw
— Dime (@DimeUPROXX) April 20, 2019
Defensively, the Thunder did a much better job of attacking Lillard in the screen-and-roll and taking him out of his comfort zone in the first half, but Lillard absolutely caught fire after the break, scoring 25 points in the third quarter alone to keep the Blazers within four going into the final frame.
The Blazers had erased OKC’s lead by the 10-minute mark of the fourth, but Russ and company were able to fend them off late and secure the victory, despite yet another brutal shooting night from Paul George, who finished with 22 points but was just 3-of-16 overall from the field, including 2-of-7 from behind the arc.
With a gritty must-win game now in the bag, the Thunder will carry that confidence in Game 4 on Sunday, where they’ll look to tie things up before the series shifts back to Portland for Game 5.