Thunder vs. Trailblazers: Pregame Primer
Thunder (35-25, 12-17 road) vs. Trailblazers (24-35, 14-13 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
Time: 9:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.4 (20th), Trailblazers – 106.5 (13th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.9 (9th), Trailblazers – 108.9 (26th)
So that’s what it feels like to be a Golden State Warriors fan. I know, I know. An Oklahoma City Thunder fan should never heap praise at the team by the Bay. It’s blasphemous. But that 3-point barrage in the first half of the Utah game was very reminiscent of the Warriors’ style of play when they are cooking from deep.
The Thunder started the game 12/12 from 3-point territory. Take the best 3-point shooter in the league, and give them 12 shots from 3, and they are bound to miss at least one. But the Thunder, the worst 3-point shooting team in the league by percentage, managed to make 12 of their first 12 three point shots in the first 22 minutes of game action against a top-3 defense. Of the Thunder’s 60 games played this season, they’ve only made 12 3-pointers or more in just 10 games.
The team cooled off as the 2nd half progressed because, of course, everything regresses to the mean. But for that short while, it was awesome for the whole team to do as Russell Westbrook did in the All-Star game:
Season Series Summary
This is the third of four meetings between the Thunder and Trailblazers. The two teams have split their previous two meetings, with the home team coming out the victor.
The Trailblazers come into this game with a 24-35 record, having lost 5 of their last 6 games. The team that overachieved its way to 44 wins last season is probably starting to realize that most of the team last year was playing for a contract, and once those contracts were handed out this offseason, the improvement curve came to a screeching halt. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum anchor the offensive side of the ball, but are sieves on the other end of the floor. Their big man rotation feature one true center in Jusuf Nurkic, a stretch 4/5 in Meyers Leonard, and a PF that masquerades as a center at times in Noah Vonleh. None are great defensively and consistency is an issue on the offensive end. On the wing, Portland features several one-way players. Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless are good on the defensive end, but struggle a lot with consistency on their shot. Allen Crabbe is their best shooting wing and Evan Turner can be a jack of all trades at times.
- Victor Oladipo (back) – Out
3 Big Things
1. Perimeter Defense
The Trailblazers aren’t going to kill you inside. But Lillard and McCollum don’t need a ton to get going from the perimeter. The Thunder have experienced Lillard’s ability to go napalm and the results have usually not gone in the Thunder’s favor. McCollum and Allen Crabbe both shoot better than 40% from deep and Lillard checks in at 35.4%. The perimeter game is basically Portland’s only way to score. Take that away and they struggle to score in any other fashion.
2. Big man dominance
The Thunder have a big advantage in the big man department. Nurkic is able to bang with the likes of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter a lot better than Mason Plumlee, but Nurkic’s issues have always been more maturity-based. Outside of Nurkic, the Thunder big men should have a whale of a time dominating the glass and the paint. A double-double for both would not be unlikely.
3. Victor Oladipo
Okay, this is starting to become a thing. Usually, in the NBA, “back spasms” means a player gets to rest for one or two games. But once a player starts to hit the four to five game mark, you start to worry about structural damage. Hopefully the Thunder are just being cautious with Oladipo and there’s no structural damage.