Thunder (35-26, 12-18 road) vs. Suns (19-42, 11-18 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 8:00 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.5 (20th), Suns – 104.3 (21st)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 105.0 (11th), Suns – 109.1 (27th)
The Oregonian House of Horrors. That’s what Portland has likely felt like to the Oklahoma City Thunder in recent years. The Thunder have lost the last six games they’ve played in the 503. The last time the Thunder beat the Trailblazers in Portland, Hasheem Thabeet and Derek Fisher were a part of the roster (Feb. 11, 2014).
The losses haven’t usually been of the blowout variety. Usually, the Thunder have a lead heading into the last 6 minutes of the game. But Damian Lillard and the rest of the Trailblazers have a habit of hitting big shots in clutch moments against the Thunder. It was no different last night, although it would’ve helped if the Thunder hadn’t gone scoreless for about a 5 minute stretch in the final 6 minutes of the fourth.
Russell Westbrook came out gunning in the game, making 6 of his first 8 three-pointers. He finished the night 6-16. Steven Adams seemed a bit off kilter last night and was, dare I say, outmuscled by Jusuf Nurkic. It’s not many times you see Adams out-toughed by anyone. And Alex Abrines became Anthony Morrow last night: a sharpshooter hampered by his inability to guard other perimeter players. The Thunder should have won the game last night. But, like the Oregon Trail game some of us liked to play on the computer as kids, cholera and flooded wagons were bound to get the Thunder as the game progressed.
Season Series Summary
This is the third of four meetings between the Thunder and Suns. The Thunder have won the first two meetings, with both victories coming in Oklahoma City.
The Suns come into the game with a 19-42 record, having lost 5 of their last 7 games. The Suns’ rebuild plan continue to be in limbo, as they still have talented veterans mixed in with their young draftees. Eric Bledsoe is have a resurgent year after dealing with injuries that last two season. Tyson Chandler may not be as athletic as he once was, but he is still pulling down 11.4 boards at the ripe old age of 34. Brandon Knight is having a bit of a down year, but has been the Suns’ most consistent 6th man this season. And Leandro Barbosa is still blurring from time to time.
As for the young guys, Devin Booker continues to be the focal point of the Suns’ development. His ability to score and stretch the floor, makes him a valuable commodity for the Suns. TJ Warren, when healthy, has the potential to be a scorer in the league. His game reminds me of Antawn Jamison, as he can score in a variety of ways from different angles. And Marquese Chriss seems to the Suns’ answer for a dynamic front court player.
- Victor Oladipo (back) – Out
3 Big Things
1. Stopping penetration
The Suns aren’t necessarily great at shooting from deep, but they have several players that can suck a defense into the paint and give those shooters more space to operate. Bledsoe and Knight’s abilities to get into the paint helps the rest of the team find their spots. If the Thunder can prevent that, namely Westbrook and Andre Roberson, it could stymie the Suns’ biggest offensive catalyst.
2. Steven Adams
I don’t know what was up with Adams last night. He looked hesitant and unsure of himself. He let Nurkic push him around and basically dominate him. Hopefully, he comes in a little bit more aggressive and ready to play tonight. I can pretty much guarantee the Thunder’s first offensive set will result in a Westbrook/Adams pick and roll to try and get Adams going.
His two biggest triple doubles have come against the Suns. In their first meeting, Westbrook put up 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists. In their second meeting, Westbrook’s stat line read 26 points, 11 rebounds, and 22 assists (still an NBA season high). What will he put up this evening?