Team Records: Oklahoma City at Portland
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on KGW/ESPN, Radio on 620 AM
ESPN Announcers: Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown
Vegas Line: Portland -9
Refs: Ron Garretson, Tony Brown, Kevin Scott
The Skinny: The Blazers look to get the 2014-15 season off to a good start as they face a Durant-less OKC team. This is the first of four home games in the first five, with all four coming against likely playoff teams. Portland has won five straight home openers.
Last season: The two teams split the season series 2-2, with both winning once at home and once on the road
Projected Thunder Lineup (13-14 Averages):
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 6th Season) – 15.1 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Perry Jones (Baylor, 3rd Season) – 3.5 PPG, 1.8 RPG, .4 APG
C: Steven Adams (Pittsburgh, 2nd Season) – 3.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, .5 APG
SG: Andre Roberson (Colorado, 2nd Season) – 1.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, .4 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 7th season) – 21.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 6.9 APG
Player to Watch: Serge Ibaka (pictured at right) – I’ll readily admit it, I really like watching Serge Ibaka play basketball. To me, he is the epitome of a player who makes the most of his given talent and plays hard every single game. Serge has come a long way in the past few seasons and is now one of the best interior defenders in the NBA. He near the top of the league in blocks per 48 minutes and seems to be in the right place in the right time on D. He also boasts an improving outside shot on offense. His absence in part of last year’s playoffs only served to highlight how critical a player he is to OKC’s chances, both last year and in the next few years.
Did You Know?: Nick Collison was co-winner of Iowa’s Mr. Basketball award his senior season, sharing the award with future Kansas teammate Kirk Hinrich.
Song of the Day: “Another Op’nin, Another Show” from “Kiss Me Kate”-Its time for another Blazers opening night so this seemed appropriate. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – C Meyers Leonard (Illness)
OKC: Out- SF Kevin Durant (Foot), SG Reggie Jackson (Ankle), PF Grant Jerrett (Ankle), SG Jeremy Lamb (Back), C Mitch McGary (Foot), SG Anthony Morrow (MCL)
Oklahoma City’s Game:
They might not always see eye to eye but there are few duos better than Durant and Westbrook. Together they were perhaps the league’s best twosome the past several years. Unfortunately for OKC, that duo has often been stymied by injuries these past few years, the latest being Durant’s first significant injury, one that is likely to keep him out at least 4-6 more weeks. Durant is but one of several injuries OKC is nursing so far this year, with only nine healthy players available for Wednesday’s opener. On offense, you can expect it to be Westbrook, Ibaka and random contributions from others. On defense, this is a decent enough squad, especially since head coach Scott Brooks finally chose to start Adams over the aging and awful Perkins at center. This is a dangerous team, not nearly as dangerous as they usually are but it will not be an easy start for Portland.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They make someone other than Westbrook beat them. Westbrook is going to score a lot of points tomorrow and that’s fine. If the Blazers can limit the lesser players OKC has, they should be able to win this.
Oklahoma City wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. Without Durant, and Lamb, and Jackson, this OKC team frankly lacks the firepower to keep up if the Blazers score close to their 13-14 average of 106.7 points per game. OKC has to slow the game down and win ugly if they want to avoid an 0-1 start.