Trail Blazers, Thunder look to rebound from big losses

NBA

Two teams that just got roughed up face one another on Saturday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder visit the Portland Trail Blazers.

Portland saw a four-game winning streak come to an unceremonious end when the visiting Milwaukee Bucks rolled to a 127-109 victory on Friday.

Things went much worse for the Thunder, who trailed 43-13 after one quarter while being steamrolled 140-103 by the host Phoenix Suns.

Oklahoma City has dropped four of its past five games, but coach Mark Daigneault is eager to see how his team responds following the season-worst beating.

“Every night is different in the NBA,” Daigneault said after his club’s 11th loss by more than 20 points this season. “We took it pretty good by Phoenix.

“You have to be ready every night. Every day you wake up in the morning it is zero-zero, it’s a new opportunity. We’re happy we are turning around with a game tomorrow and hopefully can get the taste out of our mouth after the way we played tonight.”

Portland’s problems on Friday revolved around having no answers on how to defend two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who made 18 of 21 shots while matching his season best of 47 points.

“He’s just such a unique player at his size and what he’s able to do to get into the lane and create problems and he obviously showed tonight that he’s a great finisher in the paint,” Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts said afterward. “We’ll bounce back tomorrow. This is disappointing, but we’ll bounce back tomorrow.”

The loss came after Portland went 4-0 on a road trip. It was just the third setback in the past 10 games for the Trail Blazers.

All-Star guard Damian Lillard scored 32 points and has tallied 30 or more in eight of the past 13 games.

While the Trail Blazers are a solid 10 games over .500, it was the second time they were routed by Milwaukee this season. The Bucks pounded Portland 134-106 on Feb. 1 in Milwaukee.

Lillard admitted afterward that he has concerns about whether his squad can stick with the top-flight teams in the league.

“The second part of the season is going to be a test for us just to see if we can put it together against the best teams in the league,” Lillard said. “And do the things that we need to do to be able to compete at that level. So, I’m excited about the challenge. I was excited to play tonight.”

Lillard averaged 28.5 points, 10 assists and 6.5 rebounds as Portland split two games with the Thunder earlier this season. Enes Kanter averaged 22 rebounds in the two games against one of his former clubs.

Lillard recorded 31 points and 10 assists and Kanter collected 21 rebounds when the Trail Blazers notched a 115-104 win in Oklahoma City on Feb. 16.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 24 points and Mike Muscala made six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 23 points when the Thunder posted a 125-122 victory in Portland on Jan. 25.

That duo won’t be in uniform Saturday as Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) will miss his sixth straight game and Muscala (ankle) will be sidelined for the ninth consecutive contest. In addition, Luguentz Dort (concussion) is expected to miss his fourth game in a row.

Two 19-year-olds took advantage of the attrition against the Suns as Theo Maledon scored a season-best 33 points and 7-footer Aleksej Pokusevski tallied 20. Maledon (five makes) and Pokusevski (four) were a combined 9 of 13 from 3-point range.

“You can tell those guys are getting way more comfortable on the floor,” Thunder forward Kenrich Williams said afterward. “The game is starting to slow down for them. They are looking like two promising rookies.”

–Field Level Media

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