Preview 65 of 82: Thunder @ Trail Blazers
Time: 9:30 PM CST
The Oklahoma City Thunder (39-25) are on the road tonight in Portland, taking on the Trail Blazers (39-25) in a Northwest Division showdown with playoff implications. Though the Thunder hold the tie-breaker with a 3-0 lead in the season series, the teams are tied with Houston in a three-way deadlock for third place in the Western Conference. An OKC win would elevate them into sole possession of third, while a loss would send the Thunder sliding into fifth place in the West.
Tip-off is at 9:30 PM CST and will be nationally televised on TNT. The Thunder are 3.5-point road underdogs according to Odds Shark.
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Evan Turner: Out — Personal
Blazers: Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
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What to Watch For
Winning in Portland. The Thunder beat the Blazers 111-109 on January 4 in Portland — OKC’s first win in the City of Roses since 2014. The Blazers are 24-8 at home this season and it’s historically a very difficult place for the Thunder to find success. They’ll need to be at their best to complete the season series sweep tonight.
Snapping the Slump. The Thunder have lost six of their last eight games, including a 131-120 loss to the Timberwolves on Tuesday night in Minneapolis. OKC is giving up 119.6 PPG since the All-Star break (110.9 DRTG), while the Blazers are scoring 116 PPG (115.8 ORTG) over the same span. The Thunder desperately need a good win to get back on track, but that won’t happen tonight if the defense can’t clamp down and stop Portland from scoring at will.
Defending the Blazers. Damian Lillard leads the Blazers in scoring at 25.9 PPG (36.7% 3P), with CJ McCollum averaging 21.1 (37.4 3P%). Jusuf Nurkic (15.3 PPG) is the last piece of Portland’s three-headed monster, and he’s known for giving Steven Adams fits on the defensive end. That match-up down low is one Adams and OKC need to win.
An Old Friend. Enes Kanter joined the Blazers after being bought out by the Knicks, and he’s averaging 11.3 points and 6.8 rebounds in the six games since joining OKC’s division rival. He’s logging nearly 19 minutes per game off Portland’s bench.
PG Bounce Back. PG returned from a three-game absence to score 25 points in Tuesday’s loss to the T-Wolves, shooting 8-of-25 from the field and 4-of-14 from long range in the process. The MVP candidate has lit up the Blazers this season, averaging 40 PPG in the three contests thus far. He’ll look to shake off the rust and find his shooting rhythm against a team that has done very little to slow him down in their previous match-ups. He hit them for 47 (15/26 FG, 8/13 3P) the last time the teams faced off.
Keep Russ Rolling. Russell Westbrook went off for 38 points (15/28 FG, 5/10 3P) in Tuesday’s loss to the Timberwolves, and he’s averaging 29.7 points (46.3% FG, 35.8% 3P), 11.1 rebounds, and 7.3 assists since the All-Star break. His matchup against Damian Lillard is the one to watch tonight, as the two All-Stars will look to continue their increasingly hostile rivalry. Russ could give the Thunder a big advantage by staying hot on the offensive end, but being engaged defensively will be just as important. Lillard can get hot and win a game by himself if left unattended.