Portland Trail Blazers (9-6) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6-9)
The Portland Trail Blazers are back at home in the Moda Center taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Blazers are coming off a win against the New York Knicks after a stretch of rest due to the Memphis games being postponed. That rest seemed to do Portland well, and as they go into the second of back-to-back games, we are hoping that rest continues to pay off.
Monday, January 25 - 7:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Robert Covington (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out)
Thunder injuries: Trevor Ariza (out), Ty Jerome (out), Al Horford (out), Josh Hall (out)
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What To Watch For
- Anfernee Simons as backup point guard. The decision not to bring in another backup point guard for the Trail Blazers may be among the most controversial moves (or lack thereof) this season. Initially, with Damian Lillard playing the majority of the game, and CJ McCollum logging minutes in the same position, Simons was actually coming in as a second backup. But now, with McCollum out, Simons is going to need to step up and take on a bigger role. Simons was the second highest scorer in last night’s game (after Lillard), proving that he has the ability to step up. Lillard has said he believes the young guard can do what Portland needs him to, and we are hoping he's right.
- Trail Blazers defense. Have we mentioned this enough? Are we getting redundant? Even so, the Blazers’ defense is something to watch. When it’s there, its exciting and fun and gives us hope. When it’s lacking, it’s a struggle and sometimes even frustrating to witness. Throughout the season, we have seen flashes of what could be good defense, but for some reason, Portland struggles to maintain that through an entire game. If the Blazers can play consistent defense, it may be the thing that levels the team up.
- Harry Giles and the Blazers bench. Giles has been a fan favorite since he joined Portland’s roster, and fans have been clamoring to see more playing time from him. With the team’s current injuries, he’s likely to see a lot more minutes. Giles is a dynamic player who has shown a lot of promise, and he will be fun to watch as he spends more time on the court. In last night’s game, we saw Giles and the second unit come together and do what we have needed them to do. They made shots, they were active, and they played like a cohesive second unit We need more of that going into the Oklahoma City game.
What Others Are Saying
Damian Lillard just released a brand-new colorway of his Dame 7 shoes for Adidas, and it just happens to be the team colors for the Oklahoma City Thunder, complete with his stat line from the infamous game in the insole. While we don’t know if Dame will be wearing the shoes that have taken the internet by storm in the game against OKC, the timing sure seems perfect. Logan Newman of Thunderwire USA Today Sports talked about the shoes and the memories that come with them.
It’s not a great memory for Oklahoma City fans. The shot not only ended the season, it was the final game George or Russell Westbrook would play in a Thunder uniform. Both were traded that offseason.
For the Blazers, that five-game series victory propelled them on a playoff run that reached the Western Conference Finals, where they got swept by the Golden State Warriors.
J.D. Tailor of Welcome to Loud City talked about Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort becoming a premier 3&D wing, in a year of rebuilding for the team.
Coming into this season, nobody really knew what to expect from Luguentz Dort. There was a lot of hope that he could be a league average shooter but that sort of improvement was improbable. He had shot 29.7% on 3-point shots in 2019-20; 35% from deep seemed like a long shot.
Dort’s start to the season surpasses those expectations, Lu has been a reliable option from beyond the arc. Luguentz Dort is shooting 43.7% from downtown on 5.5 3PA per game through the first twelve games on the season. His efficiency has been impressive and defenses have not been able to disregard Dort as a shooter like they did last season.
CJ McCollum will be out another several weeks, putting back up point guard duties on Anfernee Simons, who stepped up big time against the Knicks. Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian talked about the last week of rest and how it’s impacted Simons’ role with the team.
The added full-contact practice sessions, Simons said, gave him a chance to develop a rhythm while taking on point guard duties. Also, Simons indicated that the Blazers have been working on playing even more up-tempo than usual. That would allow Simons to push the pace with the second unit utilizing his speed and athleticism.
Still, not playing many minutes on a regular basis, Simons said, has made it tough to find a comfort zone in games. Lillard is averaging 36.2 minutes per game. That doesn’t leave many minutes for Simons. But he said it’s up to him to make the most of them and continue to improve.