Ok. City Thunder (29-21, 14-11 road) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (30-23, 15-10 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.2 (18th), Blazers – 110.7 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.1 (6th), Blazers – 108.0 (18th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.4 (17th), Blazers – 87.4 (30th)
View from the enemy: Portland Roundball Society
Let me tell you right now, you should be amped for this game. Maybe more than any game thus far. Yes, right now, Oklahoma City is in a playoff battle with Portland. Yes, this is a division foe. And yes, this is the Thunder’s supposed “rival”. But more than anything, for whatever reason, Portland fans tend to dislike the Thunder. Maybe it’s the Pacific Northwest connection or the Oden-Durant thing, but Blazer fans mostly don’t enjoy OKC. And that’s what makes these games fun.
(I’ll admit though, I really like the Blazers. I’ve admitted this before, so no need to heap more love on them.) And this one’s for the taking. No Brandon Roy. No Greg Oden. No Joel Pryzbilla. No Travis Outlaw. Portland has one of the best homecourt advantages in the league, but that doesn’t mean much to this Thunder team. The thing that frightens me a bit are the matchups (or one matchup), but we’ll get there in a second.
Portland coming in: The Blazers last played on Saturday, so they’re rested. They lost that game to the Lakers without Kobe. They’re 2-2 in their last four and 4-6 in their last 10.
Durant has averaged 14.8 points on 28.6 percent shooting over the last four games against Portland. Nic Batum and Martell Webster have done excellent jobs against KD. And with Batum healthy, it’s possible he will be inserted into the starting lineup to check Durant. So if you’re worried about KD’s 24-game streak, you may knaw off your fingernails tonight.
Where OKC can make headway is with its bench and supporting pieces. Russell Westbrook against Jerryd Bayless will be a nice match, but with the way Russ is playing, you’ve got to like that one for OKC. Thabo will either start on Bayless or Andre Miller and that’s a good match for the Thunder because both guys are being relied upon to score right now. But on the inside, Jeff Green just can’t handle LaMarcus Aldridge. He’s traditionaly torched the Thunder. He left the last game early, but scored six quick points and looked to be a nightmare. After looking back, really this is the only matchup that scares me. Of course Juwan Howard isn’t wonderful, but he’s physical and done a nice job on the post for Portland.
Overall, this one will come down to containing Aldridge, locking down on whoever decides to take the secondary scoring load for Portland (Webster, Miller, Bayless) and the Thunder bench outplaying the Blazer bench. Sounds easy fellas. Get it done.
The Thunder’s riding a five-game winning streak and could stretch it to a season-high six with a win. Plus, that would be win No. 30 and edge the Thunder up the Western ranks. It truly a huge game. It’s NBATV’s Fan Night game and if you’re a fan of the NBA, this is absolutely must-see basketball. But the Rose Garden is a tough place to win and OKC has lost four straight to the Blazers. I’m cautiously psyched.
Tip at 9:00 CST. Go Streak.