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Paul George rhythm at the center of Thunder's 3-point woes in 104-99 loss to Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, Ore. — As Paul George walked off the Moda Center floor Sunday afternoon with the Thunder’s chances of victory, the booming voice of the public announcer sent the sellout crowd into another level of frenzy.

"Disqualified," the announcer said, George having to exit with 1.9 seconds left after committing his sixth foul. With George to the bench went a woeful shooting performance and an opportunity missed.

"Four days ago I couldn’t even lift my shoulder," George said after the Thunder’s 104-99 loss to the Trail Blazers in Game 1 of their Western Conference first-round series. "Fast-forward to today, it was the first day I shot the ball.

"With me, it’s just rhythm."

The Thunder will be fortunate to make it out of this series without George finding his rhythm. The Thunder’s offense stalled out Sunday because George struggled.

Listed as questionable entering Sunday’s game with right shoulder soreness, George finished with 26 points on 24 shots. George shot just 4-of-15 from 3-point range, the primary culprit in the Thunder’s woeful 5-of-33 night from deep.

Thunder coach Billy Donovan thought the Thunder’s offense was well-balanced. Russell Westbrook had his ninth-career playoff triple-double with 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and most important was his control of the offense.

Steven Adams and Westbrook picked apart the Blazers’ interior defense to lead a 54-point effort in the paint. Just 12 of the Thunder’s shots came in the most inefficient places on the floor — the mid-range — and the Thunder made a respectable five of those attempts.

While Westbrook was part of the Thunder’s 3-point problem, missing all four of his attempts from deep, he wasn’t the root of OKC’s issues. He was 8-of-13 otherwise.

"I thought we did a good job," Westbrook said of sticking with the game plan on offense.

The problem started and ended with George’s sore shoulders, which carried not just the weight of Game 1’s result but days of non-use.

In the pregame warm-up, which determined his status for Game 1, George — wearing black kinesiology tape on his right shoulders — was splashing 3-pointers and mid-range shots. He said those were the first shots he attempted since the Thunder’s win against Houston last week, a span of five days. It was apparent from the first quarter, when George had his shot blocked twice by Maurice Harkless on drives, he was going to struggle.

George’s slump wasn’t because the Blazers were locking down the 3-point line, and Portland was honest enough to admit it.

"I don’t think it was really anything we did," Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "It was actually one of the things we need to do a better job of going into the second game."

"I think we gave him too many open three looks, and that’s going to be a concern going into Game 2," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said.

What wasn’t a problem for the Blazers was their own 3-point shooting. The Thunder’s defense eventually settled in, but Portland lit OKC up for 7-for-10 from 3 in a 39-point first quarter.

Much of it was Lillard and C.J. McCollum’s brilliance, combining for 6-of-10 from deep. Some came from distances beyond the Thunder’s reach. Some were negligent closeouts.

"They just came off screens, shooting from deep," Thunder guard Terrance Ferguson said. "Tough shots."

George wasn’t the only culprit. When the Thunder was playing its best ball of the season, it combined George’s MVP-level play with defensive effort and shot making from the collective. Westbrook, Jerami Grant and Dennis Schroder combined to shoot 0-of-14 from 3.

But the Thunder is used to seeing George make the tough shots Lillard and McCollum made Sunday. OKC won’t win the series without George capturing his rhythm.

His health, or lack thereof, many not allow it.

"Tomorrow we get shots up and get back in tune and try to get the same looks we got tonight," said George, who added he wasn’t feeling anything physically.

"It’s just rhythm only. The trainers did an excellent job of getting me prepared to play today. That’s all it is, just rhythm."

Related Photos
<strong>Portland's Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Paul George during Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Ore. George struggled with shoulder soreness, although he scored 26 points in a 104-99 loss. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola]</strong>

Portland's Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Paul George during Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Ore. George struggled with shoulder soreness, although he scored 26 points in a 104-99 loss. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-af038f1bbd0b78ec6f92178bc71e769b.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland's Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Paul George during Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Ore. George struggled with shoulder soreness, although he scored 26 points in a 104-99 loss. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola] " title=" Portland's Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Paul George during Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Ore. George struggled with shoulder soreness, although he scored 26 points in a 104-99 loss. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola] "><figcaption> Portland's Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City's Paul George during Sunday's playoff game in Portland, Ore. George struggled with shoulder soreness, although he scored 26 points in a 104-99 loss. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6ed74a6cf01c58dab991bcbeb150df9e.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9fafa2fa2cd1dcd1eac64ba59cd6f1dc.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-a94fdfd4e907d83429cca0af1ac378fb.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts signals from the sideline during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts signals from the sideline during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts signals from the sideline during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-250bae6d327304973cbf793be7f83e6a.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, right, drives against Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, right, drives against Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum, right, drives against Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4edf860c083670707ba160bf879b7618.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, grabs a rebound as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, and Thunder forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, grabs a rebound as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, and Thunder forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, grabs a rebound as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, front left, and Thunder forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-06d997ae3b57a560867dac985a0c9435.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins, front left, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins, front left, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers forward Zach Collins, front left, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-93a2ab23ed1a6e468ece17b4cc4a622d.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, left, and forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, left, and forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams, left, and forward Paul George, right, defend during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-15fef1c9b7b4819b84d860c288820041.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) scores against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) scores against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) scores against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-d1a38dd77cea5b920b5da88a24ba4bfe.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Billy Donovan shouts instructions during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-f15387d2c7eee7922c0e84d6ba51bf20.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, center, shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, defends during the second half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-701484d1909b784f0fcbf66d16df9245.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, blocks the shot of Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, blocks the shot of Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nerlens Noel, right, blocks the shot of Portland Trail Blazers forward Meyers Leonard, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2c2bed6891486f199869e896dd5f5f46.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, shoots as Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, defends during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, shoots as Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, defends during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, shoots as Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, defends during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e006906915cdeb82c6377930c0f47435.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, has his shot blocked by Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, has his shot blocked by Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, has his shot blocked by Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-6ed74a6cf01c58dab991bcbeb150df9e.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, trails the play during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8375b2e309da07b1793f7c4e00272ef0.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, right, blocks the shot of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, right, blocks the shot of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, right, blocks the shot of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, left, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-9fafa2fa2cd1dcd1eac64ba59cd6f1dc.jpg" alt="Photo - Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Portland Trail Blazers forward Maurice Harkless, left, knocks the ball away from Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, right, during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-2a75b308be8a09261dbba6dca129d364.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook interacts with the crowd during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)" title="Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook interacts with the crowd during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)"><figcaption>Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook interacts with the crowd during the first half of Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers in Portland, Ore., Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Steve Dipaola)</figcaption></figure>
Erik Horne

Erik Horne is in his fourth season on the Thunder beat. Horne joined The Oklahoman as a sports web editor/producer in September 2013 following a five-year stint at The Ardmoreite (Ardmore) – first as a sports writer, then sports editor. At The... Read more ›

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