Preview 56 of 82: Trail Blazers @ Thunder
Time: 7:00 PM CST
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma
The Oklahoma City Thunder (36-19) are back in action tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, taking on the Portland Trail Blazers (33-22) in a Northwest Division showdown. The Thunder have won nine of their last 10, are 2-0 against the Blazers this season, and are currently third in the Western Conference with 27 games remaining. Portland remains fourth in the West, trailing OKC by three games, and enters having lost two of their last three.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder are 5.5-point home favorites according to Odds Shark.
*Update: In addition to Jerami Grant, the Thunder will also be without Dennis Schroder (personal) tonight versus Portland.
- Jerami Grant: Out — Ankle
- Dennis Schroder: Out — Personal
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
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What to Watch For
The Season Series. The Thunder lead the season series 2-0 after taking a 111-109 win on January 4 in Portland, then 123-114 on January 22 in Oklahoma City. With the Blazers fourth in the West and trailing the third-place Thunder by three games, OKC could do itself a big favor by securing the season series tonight. Owning that tie-breaker could end up being huge down the stretch, particularly with the Thunder having the most difficult closing schedule in the league.
No Grant. Jerami Grant is listed as “out” due to a sprained ankle, so Billy Donovan will be tasked with finding a new starting power forward tonight vs Portland. Though Patrick Patterson makes sense, it wouldn’t be shocking to see Deonte Burton (or maybe even Donte Grantham?) in the starting lineup in order to keep rotations the same. Abdel Nader is also a possibility for Donovan.
In any case, Grant has been superb this season — particularly lately — and his absence won’t go unnoticed. Here’s the play from Saturday that resulted in his injury. He stayed in the game, though he was moving gingerly after the final buzzer.
Thunder Defense. The Blazers have the eighth-ranked offense in the NBA, coming in with an offensive rating of 112. Though the Thunder are still third defensively (104.9 DRTG), things have been slipping in the new year. The Thunder are 17th defensively since January 1, posting a defensive rating of 110.7. Portland has plenty of weaponry and the seventh-best 3-point percentage in the NBA at 36.2 percent. If the Thunder defense can’t lock in and slow them down, Portland has the firepower to turn this into a shootout.
Player of the Week. Paul George was named Western Conference Player of the Week after averaging 37 points, eight rebounds, and 2.7 steals on 43 percent shooting from long range in a 3-0 week for the Thunder. He’s coming off a 45-point explosion on Saturday in Houston, and is rocketing up the MVP ladder with an unbelievable stretch of play. PG13 has averaged 36.5 PPG in the two games against Portland this season. Expect another strong outing from the Thunder’s leading scorer, as he doesn’t appear to be slowing down in the slightest.
The Bigs. Despite OKC being 2-0 against the Blazers this season, Jusuf Nurkic has done work against Steven Adams in their matchup at the center position. Nurkic is averaging 22 points and 11.5 rebounds against the Thunder this season — Adams and the Thunder defense must account for him in this one.
Chasing Wilt. With nine consecutive triple-doubles, Russell Westbrook has tied Wilt Chamberlain for the longest triple-double streak in NBA history. He could take over sole possession of that list with another triple-double tonight and he’s averaging 30 points, 9.5 assists, and 10 rebounds in the two games against the Blazers this season. More importantly than all that, however, is his ability on the defensive end. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum in the Portland backcourt won’t make it easy. Russ needs to remain locked into impacting all facets of the game.
Nick Gallo’s game day report: