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Thunder journal: OKC gets steady Westbrook in Game 1 loss

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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George trails the play during Game 1 of a first-round playoff game on Sunday in Portland, Ore.  [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola]
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, right, reacts after making a basket as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George trails the play during Game 1 of a first-round playoff game on Sunday in Portland, Ore. [AP Photo/Steve Dipaola]

PORTLAND, Ore. – Russell Westbrook shrugged it off. Maybe it was who was asking the question that led to such a flat response, but Westbrook didn’t blink when assessing the Thunder’s offensive performance on Sunday.

"I thought we did a good job," Westbrook deadpanned after the Thunder’s 104-99 loss in Game 1 against the Blazers.

Westbrook was asked about the Thunder’s offense generating good shots. Westbrook finished with 10 assists and four turnovers, and frankly should have had fewer turnovers and more assists.

Two of Westbrook’s four turnovers came on offensive foul calls in a span of three second-quarter possessions. The Thunder missed 28 of its 33 3-point attempts, often off wide-open looks from Westbrook passes.

Otherwise, Westbrook was in a mode offensively the Thunder would be happy with for the remainder of the series. When Enes Kanter stayed glued to Steven Adams to prevent lobs, Westbrook didn’t settle for mid-range shots or 3-pointers, instead keeping his dribble to get to the rim easily.

It was a far cry from Westbrook hoisting 19 3-point attempts in a closeout game against Utah last April.

"He was downhill, our team was downhill … we were in the paint, that’s what we want to do," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "That’s how we’ve tried to play all season long.

"I thought he did a really good job of spreading the ball out, finding Steven, finding Paul (George), finding different guys for shots. At times, I thought it was contagious to our team. We moved the ball."

The primary issues outside of the Thunder not hitting the 3 with regularity was its struggle scoring efficiently as its strength. The Thunder loves to run, but was just 4-of-12 on the fast break.

In transition, George, who shot just 4-of-15 from 3-point range, received a screen from Adams that leveled Damian Lillard. George missed a clean look, one of several from the Thunder in a game it may regret.

Not just because it missed shots, but because OKC received a mature performance from Westbrook.

It may have come at a cost. Westbrook finished the game, but tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter trying to close out to Lillard at the 3-point line.

"I’m OK; it’s all right," Westbrook said of his ankle.

Asked if it would affect him in the series, Westbrook said "I don’t know. We’ll see."

Ferguson in focus

Terrance Ferguson played just 16 minutes on Sunday, as he had three fouls in just 6 1/2 minutes in the first half.

In the season series, Ferguson played smothering defense on C.J. McCollum, but was frustrated by the whistle in the first half, so much that he was assessed a technical foul after picking up his third foul in the second quarter.

Ferguson’s played so well for the Thunder this season, it’s easy to forget he’s a 20-year-old and in his first playoff series. Donovan almost forgot about Ferguson completely late.

Ferguson only played 12 seconds in the fourth quarter while Dennis Schroder played all but nine seconds. It didn’t hurt the Thunder’s defense, but Ferguson provides a length at 6-foot-7 that Schroder can’t provide at 6-0, and he made 1-of-2 from 3 to Schroder's 0-of-7.

Before Schroder found his footing in the second quarter, McCollum picked on him to score on consecutive drives.

"I came out, came out aggressively, got in foul trouble, simple as that," Ferguson said. "Good to get a playoff game in though.

"But like I said, we move on to the next one and hope for a better outcome."

Tip-ins

For all George’s struggles, there’s a ray of light: George closed well, with 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting in the fourth quarter. George shot just 5-of-19 the rest of the game. … Donovan went with a nine-man rotation in Game 1, with Abdel Nader and Patrick Patterson not playing. … George did not record an assist for only the second time all season (Dec. 30 at Dallas).

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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