Portland Trail Blazers (21-23, 7-16 road) vs. OKC Thunder (33-11, 18-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.2 (2nd), Blazers– 105.2 (10th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.9 (13th), Blazers – 102.9 (12th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.5 (4th), Blazers – 91.5 (16th)
View from the enemy: Portland Roundball Society
Lose tonight, and there will be panic. Probably justified panic. The Thunder have dropped two straight at home, are 1-3 in their last four at The Peake and have a Blazers team coming to town that they should completely handle. If they don’t show up ready and excited for this one, then I think there’s good reason to wonder what’s going on.
I think they will though. The second half against San Antonio was really good basketball and the Thunder understand where they’re at right now. The playoffs are on the horizon and with them sitting atop the West all seasons so far, they’ve yet to really be pushed for that spot. Now the Spurs are doing it, so it’ll be interesting to see how OKC responds.
Portland coming in: Besides completely blowing things up, the Blazers went to Chicago and got a win on Friday.
Three Big Things
1. New coach smell. For whatever reason, a coaching change always seems to bring out the best in a team for a couple games. And with the Blazers firing Nate McMillan with Kaleb Canales taking over, Portland went to Chicago and won after looking like a team that couldn’t beat Norfolk State. A new coach brings new energy, so the Thunder are going to get a good shot from the Blazers.
2. LMA. It seems that LaMarcus Aldridge always plays well against the Thunder. He’s a destructive force both on the block and in the pick-and-pop. He can really get rolling against a lot of teams, but the Thunder seem to have more problems with him than most. Perk did terrific work on him late in Portland last time, but Serge Ibaka will likely get the start there. I wonder if Aldridge is going to be a bit more motivated than usual seeing as he wasn’t happy with the playing time Scott Brooks gave him in the All-Star Game.
3. Win. That’s kind of an important thing. The Thunder have beaten themselves a lot recently doing dumb things late in games, starting slowly or just by not executing well. They can do all of that stuff there, but the important thing is to win. A few losses will do that to you. Where maybe you weren’t happy with a tough three-point win over the Warriors or something, lose a few and those ugly wins don’t look so ugly after all.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Go Win.