Trailblazers vs. Thunder: Pregame Primer

 vs. 

Trailblazers (26-35, 10-22 road) vs. Thunder (35-28, 23-8 home)

TV: NBATV/FSOK
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 7:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.2 (22nd), Trailblazers – 107.0 (12th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.1 (10th), Trailblazers – 109.1 (27th)

The Oklahoma City Thunder went 0-3 in their recent voyage out West, losing each game to teams who are currently under .500. Here are a couple surprising stats from their recent road woes, as compared to their first 3 games out of the All-Star break, which were all at home:

  • In the 3 games after the All-Star break, the Thunder shot 31/67 from deep (46.3%). In their next 3 games, they shot 22/86 from deep (25.6%).
  • In the 3 games after the All-Star break, the Thunder averaged 51.3 boards per game. In their next 3 games, they averaged 45.3 boards. The availability of missed shots went up, but the Thunder’s rebound percentage went down.
  • Surprisingly (maybe not), the Thunder shot 20 more free throws on the road than they did at home in that 6 game stretch. With the shots not falling, Russell Westbrook took it upon himself to get to the free throw line at eye-popping 46 times during the 3 game road trip (over 15 attempts per game).
  • The turnovers were basically identical (44 at home to 46 on the road)
  • After 4 games, the Thunder were shooting 44.1% from deep. After the next two games, that percentage dipped all the way down to 35.2%. That is what they call “regression to the mean”.

So what happened? Well, in addition to the shots not falling on one end of the court for the Thunder, the defense on the other end was utterly atrocious. For one, the Thunder became toreros (bull-fighters) ushering the opponent’s guards into the paint at will. Once in the paint, the guards either scored, kicked it out for an open jumper, or got fouled. And boy, did the Thunder foul a ton this road trip. The three opponents averaged a whooping 32.3 FT attempts per game, which contributed to nearly a quarter of the points scored for the opponents. On the season, the Thunder normally allow 26.1 FT’s per game.

And you know what else happened? The young players fell into young player habits. You know, those annoying, “the bench doesn’t travel” myths. Young players are scared to sleep in hotels. Well, they proved to be true on this trip. Alex Abrines and Doug McDermott both put their jump shots on a back of a milk carton. And Taj Gibson made us remember who Taj Gibson is: a solid veteran PF, but not someone to necessarily depend on for anything important. And the Norris Cole experience is off to a weird start. LeBron James and Mike D’Antoni are the biggest snake oil salesmen in the league. Players that play either with LeBron or in D’Antoni’s system look so much better with them than they do on other teams. Here’s to sleeping in your own bed. Here’s to home. Here’s to Victor Oladipo not going to church in Tulsa anymore.

Season Series Summary

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these Northwest Division rivals. The Trailblazers currently lead the season series 2-1, having won both of their games in Portland.

Injuries

Victor Oladipo – back (Gametime Decision)

Three Big Things

1. Steven Adams

I don’t know what the hell is up with the Big Kiwi. The last few games, Adams has not looked like himself. I don’t know if he’s hurt or if he misses Joffrey Lauvergne, but Adams seems to be struggling with something. What that something is, I’m not entirely sure. In the Dallas game, he was tasked with guarding Dirk Nowitzki after Dallas started extremely small. That, of course, was not a good match-up for Adams, who looked good dominating on the offensive end, but looked completely lost having to go out on the perimeter to guard Dirk. In the Portland game, Adams was dominated by Jusuf Nurkic, who pushed Adams around and, honestly, bullied him. Hopefully he’s just going through a slump and is looking to break out of it tonight.

2. Interior Dominance

This should be a team the Thunder dominate inside. But they struggled with that the last time they played Portland, and that showed in the final score. If Adams and Enes Kanter can shore that up, the Thunder should get back to their winning ways against Portland.

3. Westbrook’s assist numbers

Westbrook needs at least 7 assists tonight to keep his assist average at 10. If not, he will dip below 10 in one of the major triple-double categories for this first time this season. As other players start to throw their resumés into the MVP pot (Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James), the numbers, more specifically the triple-double numbers, are the only things keeping Westbrook afloat in the conversation. If they start to drop, then his season goes from historic, MVP consideration to just great.