Thunder (13-3, 4-3 road) vs. Trail Blazers (15-3, 7-1 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 106.1 (12th), Blazers – 111.3 (2nd)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.2 (5th), Blazers – 106.0 (21st)
Pace: Thunder – 96.5 (5th), Blazers – 93.5 (18th)
Boy, I am excited about this game. For one, the Blazers are a fun team and it’s always great to watch a game at the Rose Garden where their fans are as passionate as any fanbase. But for two, it’s a big one in the scheme of both the Western Conference and Northwest Division. The Blazers are still trying to convince everyone that they’re to be taken very seriously, while we know who the Thunder are, which means Portland only has more motive.
The Blazers have struggled against the Thunder the past few years, but this is easily their best team since the Brandon Roy era. For really the first time in a couple seasons, both teams are playing at a high level.
The Thunder have ripped off eight straight wins, which means eventually a loss is coming. But there’s no reason it has to come tonight. At full strength this season, the Thunder have been very good as they showed against the Spurs, Warriors, Clippers and Wolves. But those were at home. Here’s a big chance to beat a good team on the road.
Portland coming in: They played Monday, beating the Pacers
Three Big Things
1. LMA. LaMarcus Aldridge is such a ridiculously tough cover because of his pick-and-pop ability combined with how he can score back to the basket on the block. Serge Ibaka has always done decently well on him, but really one of OKC’s best defenders for him has been Kendrick Perkins, just because he’s played Aldridge so physically and gotten under his skin.
2. Secondary weapons. The Blazers had an almost historically bad bench last season, something they rebuilt last offseason. With Mo Williams, Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson and others, it’s better, but still not great. The Thunder should have an advantage with its bench unit, making the second and third quarters big.
3. Good start. Start slow against Portland, and that crowd will smother you. The Thunder got away with it against the Kings because they were playing the Kings, but the Blazers probably won’t be as forgiving if you get down 14-2.
Tip at 9:00 CT. Go Great Game.