Portland Trail Blazers (22-29) at Oklahoma City Thunder (29-22)
Feb. 5, 2017, 12:00 PST
Watch: CSNNW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli(out)
Thunder injuries: Enes Kanter (out), Alex Abrines (questionable)
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City
After a 3-2 home stand that culminated in a 108-104 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the Portland Trail Blazers head to Oklahoma City to take on Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in a matinee affair.
The Thunder currently sit at 29-22, good for seventh place in the Western Conference and only 2 games behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth. As predicted before the season began, Oklahoma City’s game plan starts - and often ends - with Westbrook. The All Star point guard is leading the league in scoring at 30.8 points per game while averaging a triple-double with 10.5 rebounds and 10.3 assists a night. Westbrook has an eye-popping 41.8 percent usage rate, and a lot of this is due to the fact that, while he has some nice pieces around him, there is very little in the way of another true offensive threat on the team.
The closest thing that the Thunder have to a secondary offensive threat is big man Enes Kanter, who is among the league leaders in points per 36 minutes while putting up nearly 15 points and six rebounds as a reserve. Unfortunately, last week Kanter punched a chair in frustration during a game against the Mavericks and fractured his forearm, causing him to be sidelined for up to two months.
With Kanter’s departure, the Thunder will look for offense from Westbrook’s back court running mate, Victor Oladipo. Oladipo, a highly athletic hybrid guard who can defend at a high level, has been putting up more than 15 points a night while nudging his effective-field-goal percentage to over 50 percent for the first time in his career. While Oladipo is considered by some to be a disappointment based on being drafted #2 overall in 2013, he is a solid two-way player that is capable of contributing in a myriad of ways.
In the front court, the Thunder start forwards Andre Roberson and Domantas Sabonis next to center Steven Adams. Roberson contributes little on the offensive end, but is a solid wing defender, averaging a steal and a block per game. Sabonis, a rookie acquired with Oladipo in last summer’s Serge Ibaka deal, averages six points and four rebounds while shooting 34 percent from the 3-point line. Center Steven Adams, recently inked to a four year, $100 million extension, is a high-energy defensive minded center that has recently seen development in his offensive game. On the season, Adams is averaging 12 points, eight rebounds, a steal, and a block per game on 58 percent shooting.
On December 13, the last time these two teams matched up, Portland came away with the 114-95 victory in a game that was missing Oladipo to a sprained wrist and Westbrook held to 20 points. Though losing Kanter’s paint scoring will hurt Oklahoma City’s chances against the Blazers, having Oladipo back makes the back court match up that much more difficult. It’s going to be tough for Portland to hold Westbrook down two games in a row, but that’s what it’s going to take.