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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Takeaways from the Portland Trail Blazers' Game 4 road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder

#Lillard

A back and forth affair in the opening half was cracked open by the Portland Trail Blazers, who secured the key Game 4 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder to grab the 3-1 series lead.

The Blazers backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum took control of the contest and guided the team to the 111-98 victory. Lillard and McCollum finished with a combined 51 points as they once again got the better of the Thunder's big two in Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

Portland will have a chance to close out the series when Game 5 gets underway on Tuesday.

Here are the key takeaways from the game...

Thunder struck down by Dame Time

Damian Lillard has shown the basketball world a different side throughout this opening round playoff series. He's no longer a volume shooting guard, he's turned into the perfect leader for the Blazers.

Charles Barkley labelled his first half "one of his better halves of basketball" as he showed incredible composure to keep his head in the game despite his shot not falling.

Late in the second quarter, Lillard buried a few shots and carried that momentum into the third as he dropped 15 points as the Blazers pulled away from the Thunder.

All series long one of the main talking points has surrounded the point guard duel between Lillard and Russell Westbrook. Westbrook may have the fancier looking numbers on paper, but it's Lillard who has proven to be the deadlier player on the floor through the opening four games.

He now gets to return to his homecourt and end the opening round series in front of his own fans.

Story of the third quarter

Some late makes helped the Thunder, but it was the opening nine minute of the quarter where things really got away from them.

Down by only four points entering the third quarter, the game was well and truly still up for grabs. But the Thunder came out of the locker room ice cold as the Blazers found their groove offensively and began pulling away.

The lid was glued onto the basket as it seemed every shot from the Thunder rattled around before bouncing out. They ended the term shooting 7-for-20 from the field after one point being 4-for-15.

The ice cold display saw the Blazers lead extend from four points out to 11.

Rough shooting for the OKC All-Stars

Paul George finished with an impressive statline - 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assists - but his efficiency was below the level he had established in the regular season, at least up until the All-Star break. He shot 8-of-21 from the field (38.1 percent) and turned the ball over four times.

However, he did have a relatively positive impact on the game, as he was a -2 (best among OKC starters) in his 37 minutes on the court.

Russell Westbrook, on the other hand, was a -17 in his 41 minutes of action.

Westbrook finished with 14 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, but more importantly, he had a rough shooting game yet again. He went 5-of-21 from the field (23.8 percent) and made only two 3-pointers on his seven attempts (28.6 percent).

His shooting numbers in the second half made for even tougher reading as he failed to hit a single shot, ending the half with one point on 0-for-7 shooting.

It's the second time this series that the former MVP has shot 25.0 percent or less from the field and the third time that he has shot 25.0 percent or less from beyond the arc.

Thunder attempt late run but Portland remain poised

For an approximate eight-minute stretch in the fourth quarter - from the 8:22 mark to when only 35.7 seconds remained - the Thunder played with a lineup of George, Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, Terrence Ferguson and Jerami Grant.

A notable exclusion from their closing minutes was Steven Adams, who sat the entire fourth quarter. The lineup was an attempt to trap the Blazers' guards, force turnovers and score quickly in transition.

They did get some momentum going, outscoring the Blazers 21-11, but they couldn't continue that good work. While this lineup was on the floor, Portland only committed three turnovers, which only led to a combined three points, and knocked down all of their nine free-throw attempts.

The composure and poise shown by the Blazers helped them seal the deal and win their first playoff road game since 2016, snapping an eight-game road playoff losing streak.

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