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Thunder vs. Trailblazers: Pregame Primer

Thunder vs. Trailblazers: Pregame Primer



Thunder (26-11, 9-6 road) vs. Trailblazers (15-24, 8-9 home)

TV: FSOklahoma
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 8:00 PM CST

Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)

  • Offensive Rating: Thunder – 109.6 (2nd), Trailblazers – 102.9 (11th)
    Defensive Rating: Thunder – 100.7 (9th), Trailblazers – 105.5 (24th)

The Lakers game: Usually I’m bothered when the Thunder struggle in games against inferior competition. But, for some reason, the Lakers’ game didn’t really move my emotional meter one way or another. For one, I never thought the game was in doubt. Lou Williams was cooking, scoring 17 points in 6 minutes on 7-9 shooting in the fourth quarter, while Kobe Bryant rested on the bench.

But, I knew as soon as Bryant entered the game, the ball would start sticking to his hands instead of Williams’. Over the final 4 minutes, Williams only attempted one official shot: an inconsequential 50-feet heave at the end of the game with the Thunder up by 4. He had 6 free throw attempts in those final 4 minutes, but the offense completely stalled with Bryant in the game.

Secondly, I kind of forgave the Thunder because they were likely out on the town the night before. I’m sure the Thunder didn’t just retire to their hotel rooms after Westbrook Night at Pauley Pavillion. They likely went out and celebrated Westbrook’s achievement. It’s hard for team dad Steve Novak to corral all those young men to be boring, responsible adults.

Series History

This is the second of four meetings between the Thunder and Trailblazers. The Thunder won the first meeting 106-90, behind six Thunder players in double figures, led by  Kevin Durant’s 24 points.

The Opponent

The Blazers come into this game with a 15-24 record, having lost their last 3 in a row. Their struggles come from the defensive end. They are giving up almost 103 points per game and know the only way they can beat opponents is by out-shooting them. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum continue to be the main focal points of the offense. Their abilities to score from the perimeter is rivaled only by Golden State’s. Up front, the Trailblazers are very young and it shows in their output. Noah Vonleh, Mason Plumlee, and Meyers Leonard all have potential, but also have weaknesses they have yet to shore up.

3 Big Things

1.Perimeter Defense

The Blazers have 5 rotational players that shoot at least 35.8% from deep and a stretch big man in Meyers Leonard that shoots 33.6% from 3-point territory. This is the key to their offense and how they beat most teams.

2. Thunder Centers

In their last game against the Blazers, Enes Kanter (12 pts, 13 rebounds) and Steven Adams (11 pts, 12 rebounds) both had a double-doubles. With Ed Davis hampered by a sore knee, the Blazers lack a true post defender to keep up with Kanter and Adams on the defensive end.

3. Small-ball Lineups

The Blazers will likely use a lot of small ball lineups in this game. Dion Waiters and Cameron Payne will likely have to be on the top of their games for the Thunder to stay in the game.

Thunder Killer – Opposing player most likely to have a breakout game against the Thunder:

Allen Crabbe – It’s easy to say Lillard and/or McCollum, but I think Crabbe will be the key. In the past month, Crabbe has averaged 13.7 point on about 33% shooting from 3-point territory. When he is hot, he can rack up points in a hurry.