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Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

After a crushing loss against Dallas, life doesn’t get easier for the Blazers as they take on the Thunder on the last game of a road back-to-back.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (33-22) at Oklahoma City Thunder (36-19)

Monday, February 11th - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: None
Thunder injuries: Jerami Grant (out)
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

No time for regrets. The Portland Trail Blazers are on the second night of a road back-to-back against the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder. The less said about about the Blazers’ 102-101 loss in Dallas on Sunday the better. Suffice it to say that the Blazers scored only nine points in the fourth quarter and gave up a very large lead to lose in devastating fashion.

The Thunder on the other hand have won 10 of their last 11, including Saturday’s impressive 117-112 come-from-behind road victory over the Houston Rockets. Oklahoma City is already 2-0 against the Blazers, winning once in both Portland and Oklahoma City. Most recently, the Thunder defeated the Blazers 114-123 on January 22nd at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

What to watch for

  • The Blazers need to slow down Paul George. 37.7 points per game — that’s the average for George over the last seven games. The Thunder are undefeated when George scores at least 38. When he scores under 30 they win “only” 54% of their games. If the Blazers want to have a realistic chance they’ll need to keep him near his season average of 28.3 points per game.
  • Let Russell Westbrook shoot the ball, especially from 3. Over the last five games Westbrook is shooting 40% from the field and 20% from deep. Every shot Westbrook takes is an opportunity that wasn’t given to George. That’s a massive net-positive for the Blazers.
  • Will the Blazers recover from that disaster in Dallas? It’s really hard to imagine a fourth quarter playing out worse than the one in Dallas. Zero makes from three, 50% from the free-throw line and sub 20% shooting from field — along with seven turnovers. Some dubious calls and no-calls from the officials added to the frustration. Portland will need to put it behind them if they want to avoid back-to-back road losses.

What they’re saying

Sarah Phipps of The Oklahoman reports that Alex Abrines is gone but is “still a part of the family”:

“Even though he’s not going to be a part of our team anymore, we’re all still here,” he told the media scrum ahead of the Thunder’s game against the Rockets. “He’s still a part of the family, and we’ll do anything we can to help him going forward. He’s a great guy. I feel bad that he’s had to deal with some of the things he’s had to deal with, but we’re all here to support him and help him any way we can.”

The Thunder and Abrines agreed to mutually part midway through Abrines’s third season with the team so the 25-year-old could best devote attention to his personal matter which has forced him to miss 19 of the last 22 games.

The Thunder are short on players, but the players they have are pretty good according to Royce Young of ESPN:

Earlier in the day, though, the Thunder announced they had waived guard Alex Abrines, bringing the roster down to 12 players, after trading Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot last week. It’s actually 11, though, as starter Andre Roberson is still not cleared to play since injuring his knee last season. They’re simultaneously deep and extremely thin, with a high-quality, second-unit player such as Schroder but limited inexperienced options deeper on the bench.

With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, Ben Mertens of Welcome to Cloud City takes a look at players who have been bought out and who might fit in with the Thunder:

The team still does have two open roster spots, and still has a need for another wing player and maybe one more big man. With the trade deadline passed, various players will start getting bought out of their reaming contract by their teams who may not have a role for them, leaving them free to sign with other teams. As a lock for the playoffs, OKC could be an appealing destination for such players.

Let’s take a look at some of the players who have been bought out, and rate their fit with the Thunder while we’re at it.