PORTLAND â€” The buzz word immediately after the Oklahoma City Thunderâ€™s 15-point blowout Wednesday in Los Angeles, and just before Thursday nightâ€™s shot at redemption at Portland, was trust.
Coach Scott Brooks first delivered that message to his team inside the visitorâ€™s locker room at Staples Center when he told his players to stick together following a humiliating and humbling loss to the L.A. Clippers. And written on a dry erase board inside the Thunderâ€™s dressing room at the Rose Garden were three simple words that popped in red marker â€” trust your teammate.
The words trust and teammate were jotted in all caps.
It took some time, but that mindset might have finally made its way back into the Thunderâ€™s makeup. Behind a dominant defensive effort in the final 29 minutes, the Thunder snatched a much-needed 107-106 overtime road victory against the Blazers. Itâ€™s a win that snapped a two-game losing streak and could very well prove to be what Oklahoma City uses to straighten out its sluggish start.
â€œItâ€™s a big win,â€ said guard James Harden, whose three-point play with 2:45 remaining in overtime broke a 100-all stalemate and gave the Thunder a lead it never relinquished.
â€œSuffering those last two losses by that amount of points, I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s happened in a long time. Just to bounce back and get a great road win against a great team who was playing tremendous basketball definitely shows a lot about us.â€
Through the gameâ€™s first half and into the opening minutes of the third quarter, the Thunder appeared to be headed for its third consecutive blowout. The habitual holes that have been present in the Thunderâ€™s defense thus far allowed Portland to shoot 64.3 percent in the first half and extend a 58-51 halftime lead to a 13-point margin early in the third after a 6-0 Blazers spurt.
But then the Thunder buttoned up its defense. After watching the Blazers take a 68-55 lead by going 5-for-5 from the field in the opening three minutes of the third quarter, the Thunder held Portland to just 11-for-45 shooting (24.4 percent) the rest of the way.
It was done through trust.
â€œWe were talking it up, the bench was talking it up, the coaches were talking; It felt like we were right back to where we were last year,â€ said Kevin Durant.
Boxscore: Oklahoma City 107, Portland 106