The most intriguing aspect of the series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder is the star-studded matchup between point guards Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook. It seems NBA Hall of Famer and analyst Charles Barkley has seen enough to know it has looked a bit one-sided thus far.
There is no question that Lillard has managed to get the better of Westbrook in this series. Barkley feels that the former is currently playing on a different level than his counterpart on the Thunder, via Jabari Young of The Athletic:
“A lot of times you can tell, he’s not trying to compete with Russell. Russell is trying to compete with him.”
There is certainly plenty of truth to Barkley’s comments. Things got off to a slow start for Lillard in Game after missing two of his first eight shots. Fortunately, he was able to bounce back with a monstrous third quarter in which he dropped 15 points on the back of three consecutive, momentum-shifting three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Westbrook simply had no answer for Lillard. He would ultimately finish the game with just 14 points on an abysmal 5-for-21 shooting. his struggles were magnified by the fact he missed his last ten shot attempts while scoring only one point in the second half. Although his team was able to mount a late comeback, they ultimately fell short due to his costly mistakes.
Aside from beating him on the stat sheet, Lillard is on the verge of handing Westbrook his third straight first-round playoff loss. More importantly, he has a chance to avoid the same fate when these two teams square off on Tuesday night.