Team Records: Oklahoma City (13-3) at Portland (15-3)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -2
Refs: James Capers, Curtis Blair, Brian Forte
The Skinny: The Blazers look to keep the good times rolling as they continue their key four game homestand against the always tough Thunder. OKC is solid as ever so far this year, having won eight in a row coming into tonight, although almost all of those are at home and OKC has yet to win a road game against a team with a winning record. It should be a good one.
Last season: OKC swept the season series, the Thunder have won seven in a row over the Blazers.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 5th season) – 14.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, .9 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 7th season) – 28.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 5.5 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 11th season) – 3.4 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.2 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 8th season) – 6.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.7 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 6th season) – 21.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.5 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. He still has plenty to work on, especially passing and dribbling, but given his improvement last year, it seems likely he will figure those problems out sooner rather than later.
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: “Fresh Deadly Roses” by Soungarden-Its certainly been near certain defeat for opponents of the Blazers so far this season, especially at home in the Rose City. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Oklahoma City’s Game:
Miami may have their big three but you would be hard pressed to see them as much better than OKC’s big two of Westbrook and Durant. When they are in sync, this duo is amazing to watch. Together, the two were the highest scoring pair of teammates in the league last season. Yet, the Thunder are more than just these two stars. They are a very good defensive team with the trio of Perkins, Ibaka and Sefolosha able to play lockdown defense. On offense, they can struggle at times, especially late at games when Westbrook has a tendency to want to do it all on his own rather than pass to a teammate for a better shot. Still, if they can get their offense rolling, they are very tough to beat.
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 the past few years, 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.