OKLAHOMA CITY – Russell Westbrook has vowed to be better in the third game against the Portland Trail Blazers, and with 33 points on 11 shots on 22 and 11 assists in a 120-108 win Friday night he followed.
"Man of speech," said Paul George. "He came out, he headed, we were behind him and he put us on the back."
After losing games 1 and 2 to Portland to score 0-2, the Oklahoma City Thunder was relegated to a near-winner as the series progressed to OKC. Westbrook set the tone early with the intensity of its trademark, but pushed it to another level, with the Thunder taking the advantage in the third quarter. It is at this moment that the pleasure has begun.
Westbrook made a Blazers goalie, Damian Lillard, with 10:15 of play in the third quarter and turned to the grassroots crowd, shouting something. This caught the attention of Lillard, who said something in return to Westbrook, who then began to respond. In his next possession, Westbrook posted on Lillard and hit a rider and one on him, celebrating with a rock-the-baby demonstrative gesture. Lillard smiles at Westbrook.
"I did not even see him doing it," said Lillard. "Very often, I wait for the ball to be a prisoner. So, I do not watch what happens in the other way. So rock the baby on a shot in the air – you can do it all day. "
Lillard, who at that time was invaded by the Thunder and held just six points, scored 25 points in the third, including 23 after Westbrook's rock-the-baby celebration. Lillard's third-quarter quarterback was the highest in a quarter-quarter play since Allen Iverson had 26 points on June 1, 2001, against Milwaukee Bucks in the fourth quarter.
Lillard denied that the Westbrook movement added motivation and focused more on the fact that his team was double-digit and needed him to increase his aggression.
The Blazers came back to tie the score early in the fourth quarter, but Westbrook responded brilliantly with 14 points on 5 out of 6 shots. He rocked the baby on Lillard once more – with a little less emphasis this time – and after sinking a 3-pointed dagger with what he had left 1:20, he pointed his head at Lillard and had more to say.
Shortly after, Lillard was talking with George, then Westbrook joined him and Westbrook ended up clinching a technical foul with 41.5 seconds to go.
"It's exactly what it is," said Enes Kanter, former Westbrook teammate at OkC. "He's going to scream and scream, he'll try to get under the skin, but I think Lady and CJ [McCollum] did a great job standing up there in the cool. "
Thunder guard Dennis Schroder is also involved in the game, mocking Lillard's "Lady Time" gesture by tapping his wrist with the Thunder up 12 with two minutes to go. Schroder said he saw Lillard do it in the first two games and that he was just reciprocating.
Lillard admitted to having seen Schroder's gesture.
"Yes, I saw it," he says. "I thought it was pretty funny that he waited so late in the game, when he knew the game was decided, to do it, and he did not do that either, he did not release that's the first two games, so I thought it was interesting. "
And to top it off, with the Blazers and the Thunder eliminating their starters by 12, 20 seconds from the end, George was still throwing free throws. The Blazers missed a lay-up in their last possession and the ball tipped forward to George who threw a double-clutch inverted dunk after the ringing sound.
"I mean, it was after the hour, but it's just that I'm getting on," says Lillard. "These are the playoffs, people doing things that they may be trying to put under the skin of someone, or maybe making a statement, or, I do not know." It does not matter.The game was over, the game was in general, people say you do not do this stuff, but honestly, I'm crazy about it. was decided, and if it was something that they had to do to feel more dominant or feel better, then so be it. "
When asked why he decided to throw the dunk, George replied, "Next question".
The fourth game will be Sunday in Oklahoma City.