Team Records: Portland (33-36) at Oklahoma City (51-19)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.
Vegas Line: OKC -11.5
Refs: Ken Mauer, Bennie Adams, James Williams
The Skinny: The Blazers look to build off of two straight road wins in Chicago and Atlanta as they close their five-game road swing against the Western Conference’s second place team. OKC has been less than on form as of late, losing two of their last three and struggling even in wins and will surely look for a feel-good win over the Blazers.
Last time they met: OKC held on as Batum’s go-ahead layup in the closing seconds rimmed out for the narrow win in Portland.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 4th season) – 13.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, .6 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 6th season) – 28.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.5 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 10th season) – 4.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.5 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 7th season) – 7.6 PPG, 4 RPG, 1.6 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 5th season) – 23.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 7.5 APG
Player to Watch: Kevin Martin (pictured at right) – When OKC pulled the Harden trade just before the start of the year, one thing became apparent, it was time for OKC’s newest addition, Kevin Martin, acquired in that trade, to step up and fill Harden’s sixth man role. For the most part he has filled that role, at least on offense, stepping right in and providing a solid contribution off the bench. Defensively Martin is better than he was, but given that he wasn’t that great to begin with, that’s not saying much. The biggest risk for Martin is that he always shoots a lot but he is often inconsistent, as likely to go 3-12 as 7-11. The Blazers had best hope he has an off night Sunday.
Did You Know?: OKC is 15-4 in games following a loss this season.
Song of the Day: “Oklahoma Ok!” from the Musical Oklahoma!, the unofficial state song of Oklahoma. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achillies), SF Victor Claver (Ankle), SF Sasha Pavlovic (Quad)
Re-Evaluating OKC: Second Half Struggles?
It’s a funny thing really, OKC is the NBA’s best first half team, outscoring opponents by an average of 6.7 points per game in the opening half. Yet, in the second half OKC outscores opponents by only 2.1 points. OKC particularly struggles in the third, where they only outscore opponents by 1.5 points and have particularly struggled as of late. Why is this? Well there are several possible reasons. First, it is virtually impossible to maintain the same success across an entire game. Second, OKC often has a big enough of a lead they relax and aren’t as focused, letting opponents play them closer. Whatever the case, while it is something interesting, given OKC’s strong record in actually winning games, its not the sort of thing you’d really want to worry all the much about.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They hold Westbrook/Durant to under 50 combined points. This is not going to be easy, but when OKC’s dynamic duo was held under the 50 point mark last season, they were beatable. If Portland is to beat OKC, they will have to make someone besides OKC’s two best players do it.
Oklahoma City wins if: They shoot at least 30 free throws. The Thunder excel at getting to the line and making their FTs once they get there (almost everyone on the team except Perkins is a great FT shooter) and when they manage 30 attempts a game, they nearly always prevail.