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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

The Blazers are in Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (27-51) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (23-55)

The Portland Trail Blazers are in Oklahoma City after a bit of a eventful plane ride. It’s not only the weather that’s been a bit bumpy, the Blazers’ run in to the end of the season has been rough. The good news is that Blazers fans can happily dream of favorable ping pong balls, but in the meantime there are still some games to play

The Oklahoma City Thunder are also tank commanders par excellence, but they’ve been just a bit frisky of late. Most recently they embarrassed the first-place Phoenix Suns by a score of 117-96. Portland fans will also remember that the Thunder squeaked out a 134-131 overtime victory in Portland on Blazer’s Edge Night last week.

Tuesday, April 5- 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Nassir Little (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Eric Bledsoe (out), Joe Ingles (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Justise Winslow (out), Josh Hart (out), Trendon Watford (out), Brandon Williams (out), Greg Brown III (questionable)
Thunder injuries: Luguentz Dort (out), Ty Jerome (out), Mike Muscala (out), Josh Giddey (out), Kenrich Williams (out), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (out), Derrick Favors (out), Darius Bazley (out), Tre Mann (out)
SBN Affiliate: Welcome to Loud City

What To Watch For

  • Drew Eubanks. It’s hard to not be rooting for the former Reynolds High School and Oregon State star. Given his chance with the Blazers due to injuries and Portland’s commitment to the tank, Eubanks is making an argument that he might be somebody the Blazers should hold on to. Over the last four games he’s averaging a double-double with 18.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds. He’s shooting 66.7% from the field and he’s even connecting on 40% from deep over that stretch. Small sample sizes and opponent quality are certainly factors, but he is definitely giving Blazers management something to think about.
  • Just who is tanking here? The Thunder have been tanking hard for two seasons, but believe it or not they are playing .500 basketball over their last 6 games. Okay, so two of those wins were against the hapless Orlando Magic and the, well, hapless Portland Trail Blazers. The third win however was an absolute beatdown of the first-place Phoenix Suns. It’s very hard to predict how teams at the bottom of the standings are going to play on any given night, but Oklahoma City certainly seem like the more capable team at this point compared to the Blazers.
  • Seven foot point guard? Aleksej Pokusevski isn’t your typical seven-footer. Listed as a forward, he seems to be handling the ball more and more. Over his last four games he’s averaging 10.4 assists per game and 47.4% from deep, so he’s doing something right. Against Phoenix, he even managed a triple-double. He’s had some problem with turnovers in that role, and it remains to be seen if this is going to be an occasional wrinkle or something the Thunder really lean into next season. In the short term though, expect to see Pokusevski with the ball in locations far, far from the basket.

What Others Are Saying

The Thunder have a decision to make with Darius Bazley, writes Alex Mcewen of Sir Charles in Charge.

This is going to be a big offseason for Bazley, in addition to rehabbing his broken leg. His future is unclear at the moment. He could receive an extension or he could also start the 2022-23 season on a fresh team. The latter would probably be best for Bazley and the Thunder because it feels he has plateaued in Oklahoma City and could benefit from a change in scenery.

Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman makes it clear that it’s not just Blazers’ fans and local press talking about the benefits to losing.

Winning is supposed to be the point of this whole thing, but right now, the best way for the Pistons and Thunder to win is by losing. Sam Presti knows that, Gilgeous-Alexander knows it, and a seemingly large portion of the Thunder fan base has come to accept it. Some have even embraced it.

They can all rejoice, because the Thunder was better at losing Friday night.

There is a plan according to Lee Escobedo of Fansided.

There may not be another executive as intrinsically tied to his team’s success as Sam Presti. The current tankathon the Oklahoma City Thunder have been on for the last two seasons has pushed the team as far from the national spotlight as you can get. The mainstream media seldom covers the team. The Athletic doesn’t even have a Thunder beat writer. But through it all, Presti has quietly, slowly built one of the top five young cores in the NBA.