If I were a rapper, having to write about the Thunder would be the equivalent of needing to put out one more album to get out of my crappy record deal. Usually, rappers just recycle all their own songs, put out a greatest-hits collection with a new single and that is that. I kind of feel like doing that. But I can’t because I’m not a rapper. To tonight’s game. The 81st game of the season and second-to-last home game brings the Oklahoma City Thunder to town. Can we be real for a second? I mean honestly…Portland cannot lose to a 22-58 team in the Rose Garden at this juncture of the season. They can’t. Especially when you just A-Town stomped said team in there building recently. There is too much on the line for a major slip-up like this. Of course we need a miracle from the Kings for the division title to be on the line Wednesday. However there is still that issue of home-court advantage. When you look at the schedule and see we play Oklahoma City while the Spurs are in Oakland and the Rockets host Chris Paul & Friends…you see where I’m going here. Our better is better than their better.
The last time these two teams played, it was an absolute massacre. I mean we’re talking epic beatdown. There are lottery teams who are finishing strong and lottery teams who are already on vacation. OKC is in the latter category. The Thunder are absolutely limping to the finish line. They have lost 4 of their last 5 games since that beating in Oklahoma City. They finish their season on the road and their last game was a 115-98 loss in Milwaukee. They really want to be smelling what Blake Griffin is cookin’. The personnel is still there for some issues in this contest. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook are a nice three-headed monster. But those are the only guys who can beat you and that’s pretty much all they have. As talented as I think Kyle Weaver is dating back to his days at Wazzu, I don’t mind him taking 10+ shots. Nenad Krstic should not be able to put a dent in our front line. Earl Watson? Malik Rose? Come on. Portland’s about to go up against superstars in intense situations, there isn’t anything that the Thunder should be able to throw at them that they can’t handle.
Keys to success:
- Attack the basket/go inside. Check the Thunder’s roster and see if there is anyone remotely capable of being able to guard LaMarcus Aldridge. The answer is no. Obviously I expect some adjustments after the torching he gave them which should only open up opportunities for everyone else. But I’m looking for him to go to work. Portland has a big advantage on the frontline as evidenced by the way they dominated on the boards last time. Not only rebounding -wise but players should have no fear attacking the basket against the Thunder. Krstic, DJ White, Malik Rose and Robert Swift are “protecting” the basket. Come on now. Don’t settle for jumpers, attack, attack, attack.
- Play a sharp game. No settling for jumpers, no sloppy turnovers, no playing down to your opponent. The poor stretches we’ve had against Memphis and the Clippers lately were punctuated by the above statements occuring. This is a game where business needs to be taken care of. If the Blazers play Blazer Basketball for 48 minutes, the Thunder cannot hang with them. But if they start beating themselves it is a different story. Don’t leave the backdoor open.
- Protect the paint. Get the Thunder shooting jumpshots. I’d much rather see Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook shooting jumpers than slashing to the paint and getting to the line. Durant can get hot but he won’t have that much help from the perimeter. If Portland can protect the paint as well as they did last time these two teams played, it should be a beat-down.
- Non superstars, get your swagger going. Travis Outlaw needs to shimmy his slump off. Rudy Fernandez needs to continue his strong play. Ditto for Steve Blake. Oden needs to continue putting in productive minutes. This is the type of game that can boost confidence at a time when that can only help. Because these guys are going to be absolutely key in the playoffs.
- Hopefully get some guys some rest. Let’s put it away early so Brandon Roy can rest up a little bit.
And that’s really all I got. More importantly, let’s go Kings. I’m a strong believer of karma (AHEMwhenitsconvenientAHEM) so I’m thinking the Basketball Gods might help give the Kings a chance. Although if they lose handily to the Nuggets tomorrow I will forever hate them. Kevin Martin killed my fantasy team with his gimpiness, Beno Udrih made me barf with his “clutch” shots against the Spurs and Nocioni fell asleep against the Hornets. We fixin’ to start beefin’. Also let’s hope for Chris Paul to go OFF and the Warriors to squeeze some magic out of NellieBall. Houston or San Antonio…one of you need to go down. We need home-court advantage worse than the Kardashians need to be driven off a cliff. Yeah, I said it.