OKC Thunder (28-8, 10-5 road) at Portland Trail Blazers (20-16, 13-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 113.2 (1st), Blazers– 105.2 (13th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.3 (8th), Blazers – 107.5 (25th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.6 (8th), Blazers – 90.8 (23rd)
View from the enemy: Portland Roundball Society
UPDATE: Serge Ibaka is out tonight (chest contusion) so Nick Collison will start in his place.
Danger, Thunder. Danger. This isn’t the same Blazers team you easily beat the second game of the season. This is a young, intense, fiery and talented team that is building bunches of confidence. Their home record is one of the best in the league at 13-4 and they’ve proven they can beat the best of the best in the Rose Garden as they took down the Heat there a couple days ago.
This is one of those something’s-gotta-give games. The Thunder have beat the Blazers five straight times, the Blazers have won nine straight home games. The Thunder are 23-0 this season when scoring a hundred or more. The Blazers have given up a hundred points at home during their streak only once, in an overtime win.
Overall though, they aren’t a strong defensive team, but they have been at times at home recently. The Blazers rely more on outscoring teams than anything else, and if they have players hitting, they can pile them up. And you know they’re pumped up for this one. Divisional rival and they feel like they have a real chance to prove yet again that they belong. Gonna be tough for OKC.
Portland coming in: The Blazers lost in a tight one to the Warriors on Friday.
Three Big Things
1. Lillard. Damian Lillard is extremely dynamic. He can run an offense, but also take over and put up points in bunches. What was obvious in the first meeting was Lillard couldn’t guard Russell Westbrook — who went for 32 — and routinely went to the post to abuse the smaller guard. It’s the premier matchup tonight and one that will likely decide the game as much as anything.
2. Aldridge. The Thunder have done good work on LaMarcus Aldridge as of late, deploying a mix of Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins on him. The pick-and-pop game is where he makes his living, but he’s also a quality interior scorer when he’s matched up one-on-one.
3. Benched. The Blazers have the worst bench in the league and maybe one of the worst ever. They get so very little production from their second unit that it makes the Thunder’s issues look like nothing. But it should be a significant advantage the Thunder have tonight and one that they need to capitalize on. There can’t be any big lapses. Instead of holding on to a lead or sustaining play, the bench needs to extend for those brief stretches in the second and third quarters.
Tip at 8:00 CT. Go Non-Starters.