Kanter finished the game with 20 points and 18 rebounds.
The Blazers have endured a miserable record in the playoffs in recent years, suffering back-to-back first round sweeps in 2017 and 2018 against Golden State and New Orleans. He was averaging 14 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 44 games, but the team was moving in a different direction. Portland led 39-24 after one, shooting 60 percent from the floor to overwhelm the Thunder in the early going.
Oklahoma City beat the Blazers in all four meetings this season, including a heated 129-121 overtime victory on March 7.
McCollum missed 10 games down the stretch with a left knee strain and had only played in two games since returning.
The re-aggravation of a right shoulder injury from the end of February sidelined George in the Thunder's 127-116 win at Milwaukee Wednesday.
Kanter, signed just before the All-Star break after he was waived by the New York Knick, has started in Nurkic's place.
There was simmering tension between the teams. Ferguson earned his third foul and headed to the bench. The Blazers went into the fourth quarter with a 76-69 lead.
Lillard went nine-of-21 from the field on his way to 30 points in 38 minutes, adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Trail Blazers: Blazers coach Terry Stotts concluded his pregame talk with the media by saying. These teams met last season in the West semis, with Houston claiming that series in five games. Kanter had his third playoff double-double.
Coming into this regular season, the Blazers had a lot of question marks.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts with center Enes Kanter (00) after a score in the second half in game one of the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Moda Center. I thought his conditioning was really good.
"Any time you're going up against a team you played for, in the most important series of the year, you're going to want to play well", Lillard said.
On Sunday at Toyota Center, the Rockets will host Utah in Game 1 of this first-round series.
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