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NBA Playoffs: Trail Blazers at Thunder Game 3 Preview

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The series switches to Oklahoma City as Portland tries to put the Thunder in a 3-0 hole.

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NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (2-0) at Oklahoma City Thunder (0-2)

April 19, 2019 - 6:30 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Jusuf Nurkic (out)
Thunder injuries: Hamidou Diallo (out), Andre Roberson (out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, ESPN
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City

The Portland Trail Blazers took care of business on Tuesday, using home-court advantage to its fullest and seizing a commanding 2-0 series lead in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum dominated Game 2, combining for 62 points in a 114-94 victory. Now the series moves to Oklahoma City, and the Blazers look to put a choke hold on the match up.

Key adjustments to watch for

  • Close the lane. While Oklahoma City has been missing its threes at a rate never seen before, the lane has been open for Russell Westbrook and Paul George, especially in transition. With the Thunder so cold from outside, expect them to drive hard to the hoop. How Portland will adjust may determine the game.
  • Re-engage Kanter. After a spectacular Game 1, Kanter was held in check in Game 2 by a combination of harder pressure from Steven Adams and some early foul trouble from a whistle-happy referee crew. Asking Lillard and McCollum to carry the load all series is a recipe for trouble. Portland needs Kanter to regain his Game 1 mojo to open up outside shooting opportunities.
  • Don’t get complacent. A 2-0 lead is just that: a two-game series lead. It does not mean the series is over. The Blazers must keep their foot on the gas in a hostile environment, and not take the series lead for granted. Even if Portland leads early, other Western Conference playoff games have shown that no lead is safe in the postseason.

What they’re saying

ESPN’s Royce Young wrote on Russell Westbrook vowing to play harder:

“Starting with myself, I’ve got to play better,” Westbrook said. “And tonight, the loss, I’m going to take full responsibility for tonight. Because the way I played was unacceptable. I’m going to be better, so I’m not worried one bit. My job is to make sure I continue to come out and will and lead our guys and make sure we have a chance to win the game.”

J.A. Sherman of Welcome to Loud City bemoaned the Thunder’s ineffective shooting:

Once again, the Thunder were doomed by a game plan that has two core pillars — the high pick and roll, and offensive spacing in the corners. But just as we’ve witnessed through much of March and April, that basic system only works if the shooters can make shots. And once again, OKC failed miserably.