Team Records: Portland (31-10) at Oklahoma City (31-10)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: OKC -5.5
Refs: Jason Phillips, Nick Buchert, Leroy Richardson
The Skinny: The Blazers look to take down OKC and secure a very impressive 3-1 road trip in their fourth game in five nights Tuesday in OKC. They take on a rejuvenated Thunder team that, largely because Durant has been playing out of his mind, has won three straight after stumbling early on in Westbrook’s latest absence. This will be a stern test for the Blazers Tuesday.
Last Time They Met: Portland took advantage of an OKC fourth-quarter collapse as they stole a game on New Year’s Eve, winning 98-94 despite being outclassed for much of the first three quarters. Aldridge had 25 points and 14 rebounds to lead Portland to the victory.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 5th season) – 14.4 PPG, 9 RPG, .9 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 7th season) – 30.6 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.1 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 11th season) – 3.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.3 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 8th season) – 6.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.4 APG
PG: Reggie Jackson (Boston College, 3rd season) – 13.2 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.8 APG
Player to Watch: Thabo Sefolosha (pictured at right) – Thabo is one of two OKC starters, the other being Perk, that is not expected to score points for the team to be successful. Thabo is a below average shooter, making just over 40% of his attempts, with most of his shots coming from mid-range or 3. Thabo doesn’t rebound that well either, and he turns the ball over too much for a player with such a low usage rate. Yet, what Thabo does do well is play defense. Thabo is the guy you put on the opponent’s best SG/SF and watch him limit their effectiveness. He has to play his typical lock-down defense for OKC to win Tuesday.
Did You Know?: This should shock no one but Durant has been the leading scorer for OKC 33 of the team’s 41 games this year, Westbrook has done so 6 times and Reggie Jackson/Jeremy Lamb one time each.
Song of the Day: “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr. According to local legend, a ghost haunts the Skirvin Hilton in OKC, which is where all the visiting teams stay in OKC. So who you gonna call?:
Portland: Questionable-SF Nicolas Batum (Finger)
OKC: Out – PG Russell Westbrook (Knee)
Re-Evaluating OKC: Durant’s Amazing Run
34, 33, 37, 24, 48, 21, 48, 30, 33, 37, 36, 54, 30. No those aren’t last week’s lottery numbers, those are Durant’s point totals in every game since Westbrook went out with his latest injury. Yes a lot of his increased production is that he is the only reliable scorer on OKC with Westbrook out but its still very impressive in light of the fact that every single opponent knows this. Portland will have to hope that either Durant has an off-night or no one else is able to score if they want to prevail Tuesday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They play from ahead. With the fourth game in five nights against a quality opponent Portland probably won’t have the energy needed the mount a big comeback Tuesday. Better to take an early lead and let OKC try and come back than the usual trend of coming from behind as of late.
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.