Oklahoma City Thunder (15-9) at Portland Trail Blazers (12-14)
Dec. 13, 2016, 7:30 PST
Watch: ESPN, CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out)
Thunder injuries: Victor Oladipo (DTD), Cameron Payne (out)
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City
The Trail Blazers return home to the Moda Center after another brutal five-game road trip to face the red-hot Thunder. This is the first meeting between the Northwest Division foes, and it couldn’t come at a better time for Oklahoma City. Led by the dynamic play of Russell Westbrook - who is currently averaging a triple-double - the Thunder have won seven of their last eight games.
Westbrook’s gaudy numbers in the Durant-less era might come as a surprise for some fans of the NBA, but it is nothing new for fans of the Trail Blazers. When Kevin Durant missed time during the 2014-15 season, the Oklahoma City guard made it a habit putting up insane numbers while playing against Portland. Westbrook averaged 38.5 points, 7.5 assists, and 9.3 rebounds per game in four meetings that season.
Luckily for the Trail Blazers, Westbrook only came out on the winning side in one of those four games. The supporting cast for Oklahoma City hasn’t made drastic improvements over that time span, so a glimmer of hope remains for Portland.
Outside of his star point guard, coach Billy Donovan will rely on the improved play of center Steven Adams. Already a defensive stalwart, the rugged big man has added some reliable post moves to his arsenal. With Serge Ibaka out of the picture, Adams’ scoring average has jumped to double-digits this season.
Things get pretty thin for Oklahoma City after that, especially when you factor in Victor Oladipo’s recent injury. The vacant spot in the rotation will likely be filled with increased minutes for Anthony Morrow and Semaj Christon. Neither player strikes fear into opposing defenses, allowing coach Terry Stotts to hide one of his lesser defenders on that end of the court in this contest.
The Thunder’s lack of depth shouldn’t hold them back on offense, as they will be facing a Blazers defense that allowed its opponents to score 110 points or more in four of the last five games. After falling to the Clippers on Monday, Portland has already scored 120 points or more in two games that they’ve lost this season. The previous statement illustrates just how damaging the Trail Blazers’ lack of defense is to their efforts.
On the plus side, Portland is still playing above .500 at home. Granted, it’s on the heels of an agonizing defeat, but it is still a home game. Role players traditionally play better in front of a friendly crowd, which is good news for a Blazers team that is enjoying stellar play from its backcourt.
Chris Paul imposed his will against Portland last night - to the tune of 21 points and 14 assists - and allowing Westbrook to replicate that type of effectiveness will likely doom the Blazers in consecutive outings. Strong performances from Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum can make games competitive, but they don’t guarantee victory. If Portland’s defense is able to corral Oklahoma City’s offensive threats, they could capture a quality win at home tonight against a Northwest Division foe.
Blazer’s Edge Night 2017
Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!