OKC Thunder (2-2, 1-1 road) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (4-1, 1-0 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 103.6 (18th), Blazers – 109.6 (7th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 109.8 (25th), Blazers – 102.7 (10th)
Pace: Thunder – 97.0 (8th), Blazers – 89.8 (29th)
View from the enemy: Portland Roundball Society
I’m cringing. I’m worried. I’m afraid we’re about to get embarrassed under the brightest NBA lights there are.
But I also have an underlying good feeling. I have faith in this team. I know they’ve got a bunch of fight in them. They’ve got pride and despite what we saw the last two nights, we know they are still good at basketball. Winning on the road, especially in the Rose Garden against a super fired up Blazer crowd won’t be easy and probably won’t happen, but something tells me this team will play much, much better tonight.
Portland coming in: The Blazers are 4-1 and have played extremely well in the early going. They last played Tuesday and are at home while OKC comes in on a back-to-back. The Blazers did lose to one of the Thunder’s victims, a 12-point loss to Chicago. Portland is returning home after a four-game road trip as well.
One of my favorite matchups in the NBA: Nicolas Batum versus Kevin Durant. A great defender that prides himself in shutting down scorers against a scorer that prides himself on scoring on defenders. Batum has the ability to check Durant with his length, athleticism and instincts. Really, this might be the worst defender out there for KD to see after his dismal performance against the Clippers. And KD hasn’t performed that well against Portland in the past. It wasn’t against Batum but instead Martell Wesbter, but KD went 3-20 against the Blazers last season. Durant needs to snap out of it, but tonight might be a tough place to start.
Russell Westbrook has the athleticism and speed edge on Andre Miller, but Miller seems to always get his way. He’s sneaky quick and a heady veteran that knows how to find space. Thabo will be huge in guarding Brandon Roy. If Roy gets his game going, the Blazers are really tough to stop. Obviously having Thabo is nice, but sometimes great offensive players like Roy just score.
Inside, the Blazers are still hurting with Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla out, but LaMarcus Aldridge has been really good so far this year and Marcus Camby is always a difference maker. Jeff Green doesn’t match up horribly with Aldridge who is a bit of a finesse power forward and Serge Ibaka has done a decent job in the past on Aldridge. This might not be a bad night to give Cole Aldrich a little extra run to match the Blazers’ size inside.
OKC needs a win, sure. But honestly, the Thunder need a good game even more. Just playing well and losing by four points is fine with me. This team has looked down right awful the past two games and there needs to be some kind of encouraging performance coming soon. Durant needs to wake up, the ball movement has to improve and players like James Harden, Daequan Cook and Nenad Krstic have to add something. OKC is better than this. But I don’t know if they’re ready to play this one. Let’s hope so, because I really don’t want to watch them get schooled on TNT.
Tip at 9:30 CT. Go Play Better Please.