Damian Lillard scored 30 points and the third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers opened their playoff series against the No. 6 Oklahoma City Thunder with a 104-99 victory on Sunday.
Enes Kanter added 20 points and a career playoff-high 18 rebounds for the Blazers, who were making their sixth straight post-season appearance. CJ McCollum added 24 points.
Russell Westbrook had 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds for his ninth career post-season triple-double. Paul George, who was a game-time decision because of a sore shoulder, added 26 points and 10 rebounds after a slow start.
Portland led by as many as 19 points in the first half, but the Thunder pulled within 80-77 early in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma City couldn’t get closer and Lillard hit a 30-footer to extend the Blazers’ lead to 89-81 with 6:38 left.
Westbrook appeared to hurt his right knee or ankle and grimaced while trying to walk it off. Trainers attended to him on the bench at the next timeout but he returned and his layup closed the gap to 91-87 with just under 4 minutes left.
Oklahoma City got within 93-92 on George’s 3-pointer, but Lillard answered with another long 3 to keep the Blazers ahead. Al-Farouq Aminu made free throws with 2:09 left to extend Portland’s lead to 98-92.
George made a 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining to get the Thunder within 100-97 but Portland hung on.
It was the first post-season meeting between the teams since the Thunder moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City.
Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.
The Thunder have been to the playoffs every season since moving from Seattle in 2008, but they haven’t gotten past the opening round for the past two seasons.
George was nursing a sore right shoulder and was considered day-to-day for Sunday’s game but he started. However he was just 1 for 6 from the floor in the opening quarter.
George missed the Thunder’ regular-season finale Wednesday at Milwaukee because of the nagging injury, which also kept him out of games on Feb. 28, March 2 and March 3.
McCollum missed 10 games down the stretch with a left knee strain and had only played in two games since returning. But he started and hit his first two 3-point attempts.
The Blazers’ hopes for post-season success were dealt a blow last month when centre Jusuf Nurkic was lost for the season with a broken left leg. Nurkic was averaging 15.6 points and 10.4 rebounds when he sustained the gruesome injury during a game against the Brooklyn Nets.
Kanter, signed just before the All-Star break after he was waived by the New York Knick, has started in Nurkic’s place.
Celtics grind out win vs. Pacers
The Celtics have been at their best this season when they are forcing turnovers, spacing the floor and knocking down outside shots.
They found out in their Game 1 win over the Pacers that they are equipped to win an ugly, physical game as well.
Irving and Marcus Morris each scored 20 points, and the Boston rallied in the second half to the beat Indiana Pacers 84-74 on Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points. Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s postseason with injuries.
“I just try to be aggressive on the ball, be in the right spots,” Irving said. “I just really want to be aggressive and really be the head of the snake.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just eight points in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. The 29 points that Indiana scored in the second half were its worst of the season.
Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers. Bojan Bogdanovic was the lone Pacers starter in double figures with 12 points.
Both teams shot under 40 percent for the game. Boston hit just 36% (28 of 77) and had 20 turnovers. Indiana connected on 33% of its shots (28 of 84) and turned it over 13 times.
The Celtics’ 84 points were their fewest of the season and marked the first time they scored fewer than 100 points and won.
“We held them to 84 points. We just didn’t score enough,” Indiana’s Wesley Matthews said.