LOS ANGELES: Russell Westbrook exploded for the highest-scoring game of his career with 58 points, but it was not enough to stop the Oklahoma City Thunder from falling to a pulsating defeat against Portland on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
The Trail Blazers squeezed home with a 126-121 victory in a thrilling battle at the Chesapeake Energy Arena that Westbrook appeared to be attempting to win single-handedly.
Ultimately, however, his virtuoso display came up short against the multi-faceted Blazers, who finished with seven players in double figures.
Allen Crabbe led the scoring for the visitors with 23 points while Damian Lillard finished with 22 points. C.J. McCollum scored 21 points.
Westbrook meanwhile made 21 of 39 shots but could not add to his remarkable season tally of triple doubles. Tellingly, Westbrook was the only Thunder starting player to make an assist.
Only two other Thunder players made double figures—Victor Oladipo with 16 points and Enes Kanter with 11 points —as Oklahoma City slid to its fourth-straight defeat.
Blazers power forward Meyers Leonard said Portland had suspected they would be able to exploit Oklahoma City’s reliance on Westbrook.
“Russ is incredible, no doubt about it,” he said. “Extremely talented, able to make plays for others. Able to score the ball obviously, rebound, defend, everything.”
“But with that being said, it sometimes becomes a one-man show,” he added. “Now he is capable of that. But I think it’s to our credit, top to bottom we had a lot of guys contribute. We were sharing the ball, we believed in what we were doing, we believed in each other. This was a very big win for us.”
Blazers coach Terry Stotts echoed Meyers’s assessment.
“Up and down, all nine guys who played made a contribution,” he said. “I think we are playing better. It can be fleeting, so I don’t want to go overboard. I think we’re playing pretty positive with how we’re playing.”
A nail-biting final few minutes saw the Thunder stay in touch without managing to overhaul the Blazers. Westbrook crucially missed three consecutive shots as the Blazers took an 118-116 lead with only 41.9 seconds on the clock.
Jusuf Nurkic increased the lead to four points with a right hook shot but the Thunder immediately made it a 120-119 game when Oladipo made an arcing three-pointer.
Two more McCollum free throws put the Blazers three points ahead with 15.1 seconds remaining. A final attempted three-pointer from Westbrook missed the target and the Blazers sealed the win.
“I just missed them,” Westbrook said later. “Made them all game, missed that one. But it’s all right. It is (frustrating).”
“But at the same time, we put ourselves in that position,” he added. “We should be defending at a high level. Those are definitely shots I will live with because I will make them 9 out of 10. I just happen to miss that one.”