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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

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The Blazers look to build on a buzzer-beating win against the Lakers when they take on Northwest Division rival Oklahoma City.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (5-4) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (4-4)

Sunday, November 4th - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Meyers Leonard (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Thunder injuries: None
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City

The Blazers are coming off a 113-110 victory at the expense of the Los Angeles Lakers. Lillard Time made a very welcome appearance, but a three-point victory over the Lakers didn’t leave a lot of people convinced.

The Thunder have had a mixed start to the season, winning half of their games. Victory in convincing fashion over the Milwaukee Bucks on the road provides reason for optimism. On the other hand, giving up an 18-point halftime lead at home to the Boston Celtics also demonstrate that the Thunder aren’t an elite team in the West—yet.

What to watch

  • Can the Blazers slow down Russell Westbrook? When Westbrook has recorded a triple-double this year, the Thunder have won. When he hasn’t? The Thunder are 0-4.
  • Turnovers. The Thunder are tied for best in the NBA at forcing turnovers from their opponents at 18 per game. The Blazers, not so much at 13.7. They’ve been a top-5 team at protecting the ball however, so the turnover battle is one to watch. The Blazers will give themselves a great chance if they can match OKC’s intensity on that front.
  • Can the Blazers generate any offense in the paint? Oklahoma City leads the league in preventing points in the paint, allowing a paltry 36.3 point per game. The Blazers are fifth-worst in the league at scoring in the paint at 39.8. Portland doesn’t need to be amazing on offense near the hoop to have a chance, but if Jusuf Nurkic can have another strong performance on the offensive end like he did against Los Angeles, expect the Blazers to have a very good night overall.

What they’re saying

The Thunder have a difficult task getting their three stars to mesh, but all Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony have incentive to make it work according to Jonathan Tjarks of the Ringer:

The biggest thing Oklahoma City has going for it is that all of its stars have something to prove. Westbrook wants to show he can play well with others. Carmelo wants to win: He has played in the conference finals only once in 14 seasons in the NBA, and he didn’t make the playoffs in his last four years in New York. George has never made an All-NBA team. He slipped off the radar of the casual fan following a gruesome leg injury and Indiana’s slide into mediocrity. None of them will look good if the Thunder fall apart this season.

Royce Young of ESPN.com provides his take on where the Thunder are after blowing a lead against Boston.

As one team staffer said before the game in Milwaukee, it might not be until Christmas that the Thunder really sort out their identity. That feels like a long time, but Westbrook is adapting -- quite well, mostly -- while Anthony and George are finding their way alongside the reigning MVP. They want to be an elite defensive team, letting that end of the floor carry the day while they figure out the offensive side. That formula, for at least the first 24 minutes, was on full display. Once the defense slipped, so did everything else.

The secret to the success of OKC’s bench is... Raymond Felton? Jack Maloney explains:

Through the Thunder's first seven games, Felton is averaging 8.4 points and 2.7 assists, and having a career season shooting the ball -- 52.5 percent from the field overall, and even higher from 3-point land, where he's knocking down 55.5 percent of his attempts, which is 23 percentage points higher than his career average. ...Not only did he put in the work before arriving in OKC, but his attempts are pretty much all wide open because of the attention that Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George draw.