Chris Paul Gets off to a hot Start and Carries the Thunder to a 119-106 win Over Portland
Billy Donovan said after Friday's loss to the Heat that the Thunder were not aggressive enough at the beginning for games and that his team was responding vs. dictating pace and style. That changed on Saturday (at least for one night) as the Thunder scored 32 in the first quarter en route to 119-106 win over the Portland Trailblazers. 12 of those 32 points came from Chris Paul, who had a team-high 30.
Billy Donovan said that Paul was looking at Saturday's game in comparison to what had happened with Miami and Toronto and felt like he had to get the team going. Paul being the quintessential point guard, can look to get his teammates involved and, in Donovan's opinion, bypass open shots if he's not comfortable shooting at that moment. However, it's Pauls "restraint" and ability to take good shots that sets him apart from other players when they feel the pressure to score. Donovan not only thinks that Paul was aggressive, but he also thinks that Paul's shooting was coming within the flow of the game, and Paul did not have to force anything.
Saturday was also a big night for the young Thunder, Darius Bazley just missed a double-double with 9 points and 13 rebounds. A feat that impressed Paul: "He had 13 rounds?"..."That's impressive.".. "We need him to keep doing that, I like his aggression tonight." That aggression Paul speaks of is Bazley's willingness to take on Hassaan Whiteside. Bazley gives up a good three inches to Whiteside, but it never seemed to bother him to get physical with the veteran.
Saturday was another learning experience for two-way player Lugentz Dort. Dort played a taxing 19:31, where he had seven points but was asked to do more from a defensive standpoint. Donovan says, "He's a great worker on defense." ..."He had some fouls; there are some things I think he learned at half time by watching a little bit of film." Donovan felt like Bazley, Hamidou Diallo, and Dort all had open looks, but despite not shooting "lights out," they were still able to make an impact on the game.
Oklahoma City finishes its season series with Portland at 2-2.
The Thunder Travel to Houston on Monday for an early 4 pm tipoff on Martin Luther King Day. Catch the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.