Portland Trail Blazers (44-29, 20-16 road) vs. OKC Thunder (44-27, 24-12 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 107.3 (14th), Blazers – 110.9 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (6th), Blazers – 107.2 (16th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.9 (14th), Blazers – 87.6 (30th)
View from the enemy: Portland Roundball Society
And thus, we will conclude the week of very difficult games at home. So far it’s been a pretty successful one I’d say. Turn the close loss to the Spurs into a win and no matter what happens tonight, this would’ve been a good week. But depending on what happens against Portland, this can either be an OK week or a very good one.
Portland coming in: The Blazers are red hot. They’ve won seven of eight and have put their name in for the sixth seed as well. They’re only one game back of Oklahoma City. They played last night, which is good, but are a sold 20-16 on the road.
Games against Portland are just slugfests. Both teams forget how to play offense and every possession turns into a grind. And a reason for that is because both teams have players to guard the opposing playmakers. Nicolas Batum can defend Kevin Durant. Thabo can guard Brandon Roy. The only big mismatch has been LaMarcus Aldridge, but last time in Portland, Jeff Green and Serge Ibaka did a fantastic job on him.
Russell Westbrook has the speed to really run circles around Andre Miller, but if anyone defines “crafty veteran” point guard, it’s Miller. Heck, he scored 52 points in a game this year. So this will be an interesting head-to-head. And an important one. As Russ goes, so does the Thunder.
With James Harden back, OKC has a strong bench again, but Portland’s is solid. Rudy Fernandez can shoot, Jerryd Bayless has taken over some games, Martell Webster can score and Juwan Howard is amazingly still alive. But with Ibaka’s improved play, Nick Collison’s steady production and Eric Maynor’s improvement, OKC’s bench should be a strength tonight.
Just like the other three, this is about as big as it gets. Whooping the Lakers made up for the loss to San Antonio, but a win tonight would cap a really solid week. And with the Blazers breathing down the Thunder’s necks, keeping distance is the idea. The Thunder’s won eight of nine at home and the Ford Center should be rocking once again. It’ll be a fun one.
Tip at 6:00 CDT. Go Rumbles.