Nurkic Leads the Blazers Over The Thunder

-----Yusuf Nurkic scores 18 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks as the Portland Trail Blazers down the Oklahoma City Thunder 114-109 Thursday night at the Moda Center.

In his first home game as a member of the Trail Blazers, Yusuf Nurkic put on a show for the Moda Center crowd. Nurkic finished the night with 18 points, 12 rebounds, 5 blocks, 2 steals, and a career-high 6 assists. Nurkic was very active around the rim on the defensive end, and on offense he showed a soft touch in the paint and great vision in the passing game.

Aside from Nurkic, Portland (25-35) got a team-high 33 points from Damian Lillard, 18 points from CJ McCollum, and 10 points and 9 rebounds from Maurice Harkless.  Off the bench, Al-Farouq Aminu scored 14 points and 6 rebounds and Allen Crabbe added 11 points.  The Blazers shot 49.4% from the floor including 40% from three on 10-for-25 shooting.

Oklahoma City (35-26) got 45 points and 8 rebounds from Russell Westbrook. It was Westbrook's third-straight game with 40 or more points.  Off the bench, the Thunder got 18 points and 10 rebounds from Enes Kanter and 15 points from Taj Gibson.

The Blazers raced to a 22-10 lead in the first quarter, but the Thunder closed out the quarter on a 14-4 run to cut the Blazers lead to two at 26-24 at the end of the quarter.  Lillard had 10 points in the first while Nurkic added six points and two assists.

The Blazers extended their lead to six at 38-32 in the second quarter, but the Thunder exploded for 36 points in the quarter thanks to Westbrook who scored 17 points in the period. The Thunder took a three-point lead into halftime after Taj Gibson swished a 61-foot shot at the buzzer.

Like the first half, the second half was a series of runs from both sides.

With 5:41 to play in the game, the Thunder had the Blazers on the ropes after a Westbrook jumper pushed their lead to seven at 101-94, but the Blazers responded with a 16-0 run including five-straight points from Nurkic to help his team recapture the momentum and take a nine-point lead at 110-101.  The Thunder cut the Blazers lead to one at 110-109, but four-straight free throws from Lillard ended the Thunder comeback. The Blazers closed the game on a 20-8 run.

Now the Blazers will get a night off with the Brooklyn Nets coming to town on Saturday night.

Chad's Take- This game was all about Yusuf Nurkic. He was impressive tonight. He showed a soft-touch on the offense, and challenged big bodies and shots on the defensive end. I have no idea how Neil Olshey was able to get a first-round draft pick and Nurkic from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Mason Plumlee. Nurkic is a better center than plumlee and has much more to offer the Blazers because of what he can do with his size on both ends of the floor. The Blazers have found their center, and that will make it much easier as they prepare for an important Summer. The team should focus now on finding a power forward and wing defenders to assist Lillard and McCollum.

Thunder at Blazers highlights:

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