Team Records: Oklahoma City (41-12) at Portland (36-15)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW/NBATV, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -1
Refs: Ed Malloy, Bennie Adams, Tre Maddox
The Skinny: The Blazers look to secure a 3-1 season series over OKC as the two teams face off for the final time in the regular season. OKC is coming off a very businesslike win over the Knicks in their last game but has lost two road games in a row. OKC has won 13 of their last 15 games overall.
Last Time They Met: Playing its fourth game in five nights, the Blazers ran out of gas in the fourth as Durant took over and led OKC to a win. Durant scored 46 to lead OKC to the win.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 5th season) – 15.3 PPG, 8.8 RPG, .9 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 7th season) – 31.2 PPG, 7.6 RPG, 5.5 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 11th season) – 3.5 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 8th season) – 6.9 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.5 APG
PG: Reggie Jackson (Boston College, 3rd season) – 13.5 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 4.2 APG
Player to Watch: Kendrick Perkins (pictured at right) – There was a time a few years ago when Perkins was considered an important part of a championship team, the 2008 Boston Celtics. Unfortunately for Perkins, since that time he has slowly at first but now precipitously declined. Perkins is a decent rebounder but that’s about it. At this point, Perkins is a liability on both offense and defense and every minute he plays is almost a gift to the opponent. Yes he hit a big shot in OKC’s win over Portland but that’s an exception. Perkins ranks 324th in PER this season, by far the worst of any starting center and that rating doesn’t lie. At this point, Perk is much more often a liability than a help.
Did You Know?: Kevin Durant had won 3 straight scoring titles before Carmelo Anthony won the scoring title last season. That is tied with several players for the third longest streak. The NBA record is 7 scoring titles in a row and is jointly held by Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain.
Song of the Day: “Summon the Heroes” by John Williams. The unforgettable tune that Williams wrote for the 1996 Olympics seemed appropriate to celebrate the 2014 Olympics. Enjoy:
Portland: Doubtful-PG Mo Williams (Personal Reasons)
OKC: Out – PG Russell Westbrook (Knee)
Re-Evaluating OKC: Can They Make it Over the Top?
If OKC has proven nothing else during Westbrook’s extended absence this season it is that even without him they are an incredibly deep team and one that is capable of winning almost every game on their schedule. Assuming Westbrook comes back, stays healthy and is close to his pre-injury levels, they will certainly be a title threat. Yet, in the amazingly deep western conference there is no such thing as an easy road to the NBA Finals. Sure OKC could win a title, but they could also get upset in any of the preceding rounds by a hot opponent. It really comes down to making sure OKC gets their best when their best is needed in order to climb that final step to the top of the NBA world.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They stop OKC’s secondary scorers. Even if Durant scores 46 like he did in the last meeting OKC can’t win if they limit the contributions from other players. If Portland can make Durant try and beat the Blazers on his own they should win.
Oklahoma City wins if: They hold Portland under 100 points. If Portland is forced to play a defensive game, they become much more vulnerable. If OKC can hold Portland under 100, they should prevail.