Team Records: Portland (21-23) at Oklahoma City (33-11)
Game Info: 6:30 p.m., TV on ESPN/KGW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: OKC -10
The Skinny: Fresh off a win in Chicago to begin the Canales era, the Blazers travel to OKC to conclude their long 7-game road trip. They face an OKC team coming off their second consecutive home loss, this one to the Spurs on Friday. The Blazers might still be without new acquisitions Johnny Flynn and Hasheem Thabeet as it is unclear when they will officially take their physicals and join the team.
Last time they met: The less said about this game the better. Just think of Scott Foster, a bad goaltending call and another breakdown in OT and you’ll pretty much have the story of this most painful Portland loss.
Projected Thunder Lineup:
PF: Serge Ibaka (Congo, 3rd season) – 8.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, .4 APG
SF: Kevin Durant (Texas, 5th season) – 27.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 3.4 APG
C: Kendrick Perkins (Clifton J. Ozen (HS), 9th season) – 4.3 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.2 APG
SG: Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland, 6th season) – 5.1 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1 APG
PG: Russell Westbrook (UCLA, 4th season) – 23.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.5 APG
Player to Watch: James Harden (pictured at right) – It has been a great season for OKC’s bearded marvel. One of the leading contenders for sixth man of the year, Harden really started to come into his own last year and has really taken off this year. A devastatingly effective deep shooter, Harden is especially good with his left hand and draws a lot of fouls. He has also become a better defender, although he still fouls a bit too often. Along with Westbrook and Durant, Harden is part of the triad of players OKC relies on to lead the team in offense every night.
Did You Know?: OKC is 14-3 in national TV games this year, and 29-8 in all others
Song of the Day: “The Farmer and the Cowman” from the Musical Oklahoma!, as a tribute to the on again, off again, supposed turmoil between Westbrook and Durant, this song talks about how vastly different groups of people should be friends. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliot Williams (shoulder)
OKC: Out- PG Eric Maynor (ACL)
Re-Evaluating OKC: The Keys to an Effective Offense
OKC has become one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league. The secret to this success is threefold. First, they shoot 27 FTs a game, second in the league, and shoot them better than any other team in the league. Second, they shoot and make just enough 3 pointers to keep opposing defenses honest, making 34.7% of their 20.5 attempts per game. Third, they have plenty of players that can create their own shot. They are near the bottom of the league in assists but make up for it in creating and taking good shots. Its not an easy formula to stop and few have indeed done so effectively this season.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They hold Westbrook and Durant under 50. Westbrook and Durant are by far and away the key to OKC”s offense. If Portland can hold them just under 50 combined points, especially if they are inefficient on offense, they will at least have a shot at the win.
Oklahoma City wins if: They hold Portland to under 45% shooting. The Thunder rely primarily on defense to win games, and when they successfully hold opponents under 45%, they almost always win. If they can do this against Portland, it’s hard to see them losing their third straight home game.