It was very predictable to see Russell Westbrook trying to beat the Portland Trail Blazers on his own. It’s safe to say that the plan of him against the rest of the world isn’t going to work out on most occasions.
Without Kevin Durant and Reggie Jackson, there really wasn’t much offense to the Thunder aside from Westbrook, who scored 38 points. But if Scott Brooks was criticized for being a head coach who struggles coming up with inventive offensive schemes and system, it’s even more difficult when the Thunder’s offense turns into a one-man show for Westbrook, who took 26 shots and attempted 16 free throws. He might be hard to stop, but the Thunder as a team aren’t.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been on the right route for quite some time. They made the conference semifinals last season without having much of a bench. This offseason has been about getting that unit to contribute a bit more. They lost Mo Williams, but C.J. McCollum is starting his second NBA season without an injury dragging him down, with Steve Blake as a backup point guard, Chris Kaman as an effective scorer off the bench and Thomas Robinson, hoping to seem he’s worth a spot and more than that on some NBA team.
In the lineup, there’s not much new. LaMarcus Aldridge led the team with 27 points on 10-of-19 from the field. His plan this season is becoming more of a threat inside and not just a long range shooter. Wesley Matthews sees himself as one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, and he scored 22 points on 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, making up for Damian Lillard struggling, scoring only 10 points and adding 5 assits.
Robin Lopez had a 11-10 double double and Nicolas Barum scored 16 points on another 15-5-5 night from the Frenchman. The Blazers went on to win 106-89, doing most of their damage (+13) when Westbrook wasn’t playing. Jackson will be back sooner than Durant, but still, without the two of them, there isn’t anyone who can create his own shot and be a facilitator for the team. Westbrook is the only one, but even he can’t play 48 minutes each night.
He seemed worn out in the second half after a huge effort in the first. He scored or assisted on 37 of the Thunder’s 54 points in the first half. In the second? The Thunder scored just 35 points, including 12 in the final quarter, and Westbrook struggled getting the same shots as he did in the first half, contributing to only 16 points and shooting from a distance larger by 7 feet on average compared to his shot selection in the first half.
Perry Jones disappointed with just 1-of-9 from the field. Sebastian Telfair was just as bad off the bench, not helping out as the backup point guard the Thunder need so badly under the current conditions. Serge Ibaka with 10 points depends on the players feeding him the ball. Combine all that and have the Blazers making almost every contested shot they saw in the fourth quarter, running away with the game, outscoring the Thunder by 19 points in the deciding quarter.