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Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

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The Blazers will need to overcome injuries and illness if they are to win against the Thunder.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (18-25) at Oklahoma City Thunder (23-19)

January 18, 2020 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Skal Labissiere (out), CJ McCollum (out)
Thunder injuries: Terrance Ferguson (out), Danilo Gallinari (out - rest), Abdel Nader (out), Andre Roberson (out), Steven Adams (questionable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: Welcome To Loud City

Note: CJ McCollum has been ruled out of the game against Oklahoma City since the preview was originally published. Gary Trent Jr. is available.

The Portland Trail Blazers will go into their game on Saturday injured and ill. Once again, we find ourselves waiting for an injury update on a key player, namely CJ McCollum after he turned his ankle Friday night. Meanwhile illness seems to be spreading across the team. Somehow, the Blazers are putting up decent efforts lately, the most recent being a 120-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. In the end, Luka Doncic was too much to handle, but Portland should be pleased with the fight they showed coming back from a 17 point deficit to make it a close game in the fourth quarter.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are certainly ahead of schedule with their rebuild after trading away their two biggest stars this past off-season. Not expecting to do much winning this season, they are actually in 7th place in the West and feeling pretty good about themselves. However, the Thunder are having a bit of a rough patch, losing three of the last four games including a 115-108 loss to Miami on Friday night.

What to watch for

  • Healthy Blazers, if you can find any. Portland’s bad luck continued on Friday night with CJ McCollum leaving the game injured and Gary Trent Jr. getting a visit from Dallas Fire and Rescue for medical attention including an IV. These setbacks are on top of other injuries and Damian Lillard reportedly feeling under the weather before the last game. Injuries are injuries and they happen randomly. When it comes to illness however, everyone on the team has been exposed to some degree and it is unclear who is actually healthy and who might feel ill next. At this rate the Blazers might consider themselves fortunate if they can put eight or nine guys on the court on Saturday who are reasonably healthy.
  • Energy. The bad news: Portland will be on the second game of a back-to-back. The good news: Oklahoma City is too. Neither team has had more than a day off in a row since before Christmas. Remarkably, the Blazers have played with energy lately, in spite of illness and injuries. Can they keep it up? If so they might just catch the Thunder sleeping.
  • Rebounding. The Blazers have fallen prey to opponent second-chance points far too often this season. The good news for Portland is that Oklahoma City is worst in the NBA at offensive rebounds. The Blazers need to be effective on the glass if they want to beat the Thunder.

What they’re saying

Dan Devine of the Ringer writes that the Thunder are in the sweet spot:

This is where the Thunder find themselves as Russ comes home: better than anyone expected, playing with house money, and digging it. Maybe the best time you can have in the NBA is right before you get good. But winning before you’re “supposed to,” while you’re waiting for your next shot at launching a dynasty, doesn’t seem half-bad, either.

Three point guards on the court at the same time? It’s so crazy that it just might just work. Michael Pina of SBNation has the details:

Gilgeous-Alexander, Paul, and Schroder are all in different stages of their careers, but each one is having an incredible individual season without stepping on another’s toes. They can run effective pick-and-rolls and score at all three levels, but do it in their own way, at their own speed. Schroder is blurry, Paul is under control, and Gilgeous-Alexander exists somewhere in-between, an off-balance, 6’5 wunderkind whose unpredictability meshes neatly with the other two.

It is the half-way point of the season, and Maddie Lee of the Oklahoman reviews the highs and lows of the Thunder season so far:

It has been a wild ride, as OKC integrated nine new players onto the team in the aftermath of losing two superstars. But on Wednesday night, the Thunder did in fact play its 41st game of an 82-game regular season.