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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

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The Blazers need to bounce from a rough night with a win against the Thunder.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (9-14) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-12)

December 8, 2019 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Rodney Hood (out), Gary Trent Jr. (questionable)
Thunder injuries: Andre Roberson (out), Hamidou Diallo (out), Terrance Ferguson (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City

Disaster. It wasn’t just the final score, a 136-113 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Everything about the night was miserable for the home team. Questionable calls from the referees. Crazy-good shooting from the Lakers (47.2% from deep). Terry Stotts’ first ejection as an NBA coach. And of course, the season-ending injury to one of the best stories of the season for the Blazers so far, Rodney Hood. The Portland Trail Blazers have no time to curse their luck. If they want to be in the conversation at the end of the regular season, they need to put everything behind them and win games like this one against the Thunder.

The Oklahoma City Thunder come into the Moda Center winners of three of their last four and four of their last six. Much like the Blazers, they are starting to pick up some wins, but also like the Blazers, the quality of opponents in those wins is in question. The score of their last game was a 139-127 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but that score is highly deceiving. Minnesota had the game won but somehow lost. Read more about it below.

What to watch for

  • Next man up. Conventional wisdom would seem to indicate that Kent Bazemore will start in place of Rodney Hood. Terry Stotts has thumbed his nose at conventional wisdom in the past, but whether he starts or not, Bazemore will surely get a bump in important minutes. Mario Hezonja will be looking at more minutes as well. How well Bazemore and Hezonja do in filling in for Hood’s minutes may well determine the trajectory for the rest of the season.
  • Ball movement. The last time these two teams faced each other, the Blazers moved the ball well and had balanced scoring. The result was a 136-119 victory for Portland. If the Blazers are going to make a run at a playoff spot, they will need to spread the load around as widely as possible. The Thunder will give the Blazers opportunities to get a bunch of guys involved, and the Blazers need to seize that opportunity.
  • Rebounds. Statistically Portland rebounds significantly better than Oklahoma City by nearly every measure. However, some of the worst performances by the Blazers this season have been on nights where they just couldn’t seem to rebound to save their lives. Oklahoma City is the worst team in the NBA at pulling down offensive boards. If the Blazers take care of the glass it will go a long way towards a win. If they give the Thunder second-chance points, Portland could be in for a very disappointing evening.

What they’re saying

Nick Crain of Forbes reports that the Thunder are bucking the 3-point trend and finding efficiency in the mid-range:

About a quarter of the way through the 2019-20 season, Oklahoma City is 15th in the league in 3-point shooting percentage and 23rd in attempts. To help combat those struggles, they are first in NBA in mid-range shooting at 47.1 percent. Furthermore, they are 13th in the league in attempts at 12.5, showing they do not rely on mid-range shooting, but are extremely productive from there.

For more Thunder talk than a Blazers fan should be subjected to, The Woj Pod welcomed Thunder GM Sam Presti as a guest. If that’s too much to take, Welcome To Loud City has a summary of the highlights:

Presti made it a priority to tell the story of how Wojnarowski went up to Presti after the Thunder lost Game 7 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals to the Golden State Warriors and told him he built a championship team; it’s just that there were multiple championship teams that season. It helped Presti a lot in a down moment in his professional life and served as a great example of humanity in this highly competitive business. It’s not just a results-only business, and that the human side of things can go underappreciated.

How did an untucked shirt lead to an unlikely Thunder win? SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell has the details:

Towns missed the first free throw. After the shot, Minnesota subbed in Jordan Bell, who entered the game with his jersey untucked. Paul pointed at him and yelled for the referees to call him for a delay of game. They did, and because it was the Wolves’ second delay of game penalty on the night, Oklahoma City got a free throw. Danilo Gallinari stepped up and made the shot.

Read on for the full story and the video. It only gets crazier from there.