It’s going from bad to worse for the Portland Trail Blazers. Losers of six in a row, they now add another player to the injury list with Ish Wainright expected to miss four to six weeks with an MCL sprain. It’s a good thing the Rip City Remix are nearby as reinforcements are just a short car ride away. On Sunday, Portland gets to face a surging team with no one on its respective injury list, something that seems like a cruel joke to the injury-ravaged Blazers.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are rolling and their confidence is building. Winners of four in a row and six of their last seven, the Thunder are in fourth place in the West and are only a single game behind first-place Minnesota. Wait, what? Yup, Minnesota and Denver are tied at the top of the standings as of Saturday night. If there is good news for the Blazers, Oklahoma City will be on the second night of a road back-to-back. On Saturday the Thunder were behind much of the game but eventually finished off the Golden State Warriors in overtime by the score of 130-123.
Oklahoma City Thunder (9-4) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (3-9) - Sun. Nov. 19 - 6:00 p.m. Pacific
How to watch on TV: Root Sports, NBA League Pass
Trail Blazers injuries: Anfernee Simons, Scoot Henderson, Robert Williams III, Malcolm Brogdon, Ish Wainright (out)
Thunder injuries: None. Yup, zero.
Blazer’s Edge Reader Questions
Keep the questions coming folks! We’ll be looking for more on Monday as we get ready to face the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. As for the Thunder:
What is the point spread. The Thunder will probably cover it no matter what but you can’t lose taking them to win.
As of this writing, the line from Draft Kings is the Thunder -7.5. In other words, the Thunder are favored to win by 7.5 points. Seeing that Portland has lost by 16, 14 and 12 points in its last three games... well, draw your own conclusions.
From some guy who goes by Dave Deckard:
Does Shaedon Sharpe become a turnover factory again? How are the Thunder at producing turnovers?
Answering the second question first, Oklahoma City forces 16.2 turnovers per game, good for sixth in the NBA. Uh-oh. That’s not encouraging when the Lakers forced Sharpe into 10 turnovers and are only ranked 15th. On the brighter side, Sharpe has had only one other game with over four turnovers this season, hitting seven against the Lakers last Sunday. He probably won’t have 10 or even seven turnovers against the Thunder, but don’t be surprised if he racks up more than his season average of 3.5. With the onslaught of injuries, especially at point guard, Sharpe is being asked to shoulder more of the ball-handling and creation responsibilities. It’s one thing to drive and finish when the defense is distorted and you have a driving lane. It’s quite another to create the drive, have the defense collapse on you, make the right decision, and find the open man without telegraphing your pass. If you are of the glass-half-full persuasion, Sharpe is getting valuable experience playing a different role than what he’s become accustomed to. It’s just there will be some growing pains.
Thanks for the questions!
What To Watch For
- Chet Holmgren. Before the season, the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year was a seven-footer who plays in the Southwestern part of the country. It still is, but it might not be Victor Wembanyama anymore. Chet Holmgren has entered the chat in a big way and may be the favorite at this point. Holmgren certainly has a better team than Wembanyama, which is helpful when pursuing individual honors. He’s been defending extremely well, but perhaps most notable for the 7’1” center is that he’s shooting 44.2% from deep on 3.6 attempts per game.
- Rebounds. Faithful readers will know that we love to use advanced metrics for rebounds. By those measures, the Thunder are a terrible rebounding team. Oklahoma City is 28th in offensive rebound percentage, 29th in defensive rebound percentage, and 29th in overall rebound percentage. For those keeping score at home Portland is 12th, 22nd, and 20th, respectively. If you are looking for an avenue for the Blazers to make this one competitive, dominating the boards and getting second- (and third-) chance points would be perhaps the straightest line to an upset.
What Others Are Saying
Are the Thunder a rebounder short of being a true contender? This piece by Inside The Thunder staff argues that Oklahoma City should get on the phone with the Bulls.
Lucky for the Thunder, there’s a big in the Eastern Conference that fits that mold who plays for a team that could be changing paths soon. All signs point to the Chicago Bulls potentially selling off assets in the next few months as a rebuild could be on the horizon. While Zach LaVine, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan are the primary players teams will call about, Nikola Vucevic also is an attractive piece.
Adam Kemp of PBS News Hour writes that the Thunder could be getting a new stadium.
But despite the team’s booming fan base, the idea has drawn concerns over Oklahoma City’s funding priorities, the true economic impact of a new sports stadium, and the possibility of losing its only professional sports franchise.
The Oklahoma City Council decided to put the question directly to voters. On Dec. 12, residents will have the chance to vote on the proposal, which includes a six-year sales tax of 1 percent. Many voters are feeling at odds.
Does Chet Holmgren have the inside track on Rookie of the Year? Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton discuss on ESPN+ (subscription required).
So long as Holmgren is shooting close to 50% from 3 and playing dominating defense, I think he’s been the most productive rookie, but Wembanyama has plenty of time to close the gap.