Wallace's Huge Night Not Enough
Gerald Wallace certainly did all he could at Oklahoma City on Sunday night. As tremendous as he was at the offensive end, he was perhaps even better defensively. But, the Trail Blazers struggled to score down the stretch and fell to the Thunder 99-90. It's the third time this season the Blazers have lost to the Thunder, after dropping the first two contests by a total of three points.
This game was close as well, at least until Russell Westbrook did some serious damage in the final minute. The Blazers had the game tied on several occasions late in the game, but Westbrook, who ended the game 4 of 5 from downtown, put the game away for the Thunder in the closing seconds.
Wallace scored 40 points for the Trail Blazers, and also grabbed 7 rebounds. But, his most impressive feat of the night was frustrating Kevin Durant into 5 for 18 shooting. Durant, who leads the league in scoring, was held to 21 points and wasn't really a factor in the final minutes.
The biggest positive for the Trail Blazers, other than Wallace scoring 40, was the fact that they could have easily checked out after falling down by 15 in the first half. They went to the locker room trailing by 14 at the break, and the Thunder seemed to have everything working in their favor.
But, using defense mainly, the Trail Blazers went on a run midway through the third quarter and rallied to tie the game at 69. They tied it again at 79, and at 82. But, never did take a lead in the second half of this game. They had several opportunities, with the ball with the game tied, but never got the shot that could have put them over the hump.
In short, Wallace was brilliant, but you need balanced scoring to beat a team like OKC. Wallace shot 16 for 28, but Wesley Matthews, Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez, guys you depend on for offense, combined to shoot 7 for 28 from the field. As a team, the Blazers shot just 43 percent, and were 2 for 12 from behind the three-point line.
We're now in San Antonio for a rematch with the Spurs tonight. The second of a back to back on the road is always a scramble, so the blog is relatively short this morning.
It's not certain yet whether or not the Spurs will have Manu Ginobili tonight. He suffered a deep thigh bruise last night in Memphis, and evidently was in a lot of pain when he left the game for good in the third quarter.
The Trail Blazers have recalled Luke Babbitt from the D-League, by the way. He has joined us in Texas and will be available tonight. He posted some very impressive numbers with Idaho. On nights when no one else can hit from the outside (like last night), I still think Luke could be useful.
Portland's magic number to clinch a playoff spot currently stands at 5. Any combination of Blazer wins and Houston losses, that equal 5, and Portland is in.
Talk to you later on tonight.
By the way, if you haven't seen these Road Trippin' pieces on the .tv side of the website, you've got to check them out. This is a great one that was added last night, recapping the win over San Antonio on Friday night. Click here
to see it. If a live show is taking place when you hit the link, you'll get that first. But, cycle through to Road Trippin' with Big John to see the feature I'm talking about.