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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

The Blazers face the lowly Thunder in Oklahoma City.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (21-29) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (14-34)

After losing three out of four of their last games, the Portland Trail Blazers get a golden opportunity to get a few wins as they face the lowly Oklahoma City Thunder in two of the next three games. Not only do they get to play the 14th place team in the West twice this week, they are facing a weakened team. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the clear star for Oklahoma City, sustained an injury that will force him to miss both upcoming games against the Blazers.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are playing for the lottery at this point. The only drama left for this team is how early in the draft they will be picking. Barring some crazy trade, we already know that they will be picking often. Oklahoma City currently has three first round picks in 2022, so interest in the team lies firmly in the future.

Monday, January 31- 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Cody Zeller (out), Nassir Little (out), CJ Elleby (questionable)
Thunder injuries: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (out), Vit Krejci (out)
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City

What To Watch For

  • Josh Giddey. With the injury to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the Thunder have a large hole to fill. This is a moment custom made for Josh Giddey. The 6’ 8” rookie guard from Australia is averaging 11.6 points per game, but expect that number to rise while Gilgeous-Alexander is out. The Blazers are notorious short on the perimeter, so keep your eyes on whether the 19 year old can take advantage.
  • Low scoring game? If you wan to know why Oklahoma City are in 14th place in the West, look no further than the points column of the team statistics table. The Thunder are dead last with 100.8 points per game. They keep opponents to 108 points per game, good for a more respectable 13th place. All that said, the Thunder aren’t likely to score a bunch, and they will try to make sure their opponents don’t either to give themselves a chance. My advice for the Blazers: score a lot of points. This is why I get the big bucks.
  • Other telling stats. Still not convinced that the whole scoring-fewer-points-than-your-opponent thing tells the whole story? Let’s look at a few more stats that help explain why Oklahoma City is a bad team. How about shooting? The thunder have the worst shooting percentage (41.6%) and 3-point percentage (41.6%) in the NBA. They don’t set up scoring plays (20.9 assists per game, last in the NBA). They get shots blocked 6.3 times per game (worst in the NBA). They also draw the fewest fouls the league (17.5). Yes, this isn’t a good team.

What Others Are Saying

The big news out of Oklahoma City is the injury to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Jack Maloney of CBS Sports explains.

It goes without saying that this is a massive loss for the Thunder. Gilgeous-Alexander hasn’t had his most efficient season, but he’s still averaging 22.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. He does a little bit of everything for them and is by far the team’s best player. They’re 0-5 in the games he’s missed so far this season, and after he was shut down with a foot injury last season they finished 2-27.

Some things will change with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander out, but not their philosophy reports Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman.

Gilgeous-Alexander drives the ball two dozen times per game, more so than any player in the league. Take those out, and the Thunder’s offense will look quite different.

But the theme inside Thunder headquarters on Sunday was stability — the opposite of change.

There is not a lot of trade chatter around the Thunder. If they make a deal, it could be moving Kenrich Williams. Details from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

For teams inquiring about adding Oklahoma City swingman Kenrich Williams, the Thunder’s asking price has so far been categorized as a first-round pick.