Lillard, Westbrook set to tangle again in Game 4
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Damian Lillard got the better of Russell Westbrook in the first two games of their Western Conference first-round playoff series, outscoring Westbrook by 21 points.
And, consequently, Lillard's Portland Trail Blazers beat Westbrook's Oklahoma City Thunder twice at home to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
But Westbrook, as he promised, came out much better in Game 3 to help the Thunder narrow the series to 2-1, which Oklahoma City will be looking to even in Sunday's Game 4 at home.
"Man of his words," Thunder forward Paul George said. "He came out, he led, we got behind him, and he put us on his back."
And the contentiousness between Westbrook and Lillard bubbled to the surface throughout Friday's Game 3, with Westbrook doing his "rocking the baby" move after hitting one shot over Lillard, yelling "too small" in Lillard's direction after another and getting into a few more verbal battles with Lillard during the course of the game.
While Westbrook took on more of the scoring load in Game 3, with 33 points after scoring 38 points combined in the series' first two games, he also did plenty of facilitating. Westbrook had 11 assists.
The majority of those came on either pick-and-roll plays with Steven Adams or on drive-and-kick sets with Jerami Grant. All five of Adams' field goals were assisted by Westbrook. Westbrook assisted on four Grant makes - two 3-pointers and two at the rim.
"Russ knows exactly what he's doing, whether it's giving me confidence early in the game or just finding me," Grant said. "Russ does a great job of controlling the tempo, controlling the team."
Portland lost all four of the team's regular-season meetings, but after winning the first two games of the series in sometimes dominating fashion, the Blazers aren't worried at all.
"We'll be ready for Game 4 and whatever that brings," forward Moe Harkless said. "We're a tough group. I don't think we have anybody who is scared, who is gonna waver or back down. We welcome that type of action. I don't think it worried anybody on this team."
Portland is coming off its best shooting game of the series, shooting 47 percent from the floor, though they made just 12 of 31 3-pointers and got to the free-throw line 15 fewer times than Oklahoma City.
Blazers coach Terry Stotts said that while he expected the Thunder to shoot better outside after making just 10 combined 3-pointers over the first two games, his team had to do a better job defending on the perimeter.
"We don't want to give wide-open looks, and I thought Grant had some wide-open looks," Stotts said. "So we have to do a better job of rotating or at least contesting them."
Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, a late-season addition whose role has expanded greatly since the late-March season-ending leg injury to Jusuf Nurkic, said he wasn't worried about Portland getting things heading back in a positive direction.
"It's all going to take care of itself," Kanter said. "We just need to go out there, play our basketball."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 21, 2019