Game Details: Ford Center, Oklahoma City, OK. 6:30 PM. TV: ESPN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)
Projected Oklahoma City Starting Lineup: PG Russell Westbrook (#0, 6′3″, UCLA), SG Thabo Sefolosha (#2, 6′7″, Switzerland), SF Kevin Durant (#35, 6′9″, Texas), PF Serge Ibaka (#9, 6′10″, Zaire), C Nenad Kristic (#12, 7′0″, Serbia)
The Blazers’ loss to the Thunder last week may have been the most devastating of the team’s three losses this season, for a variety of reasons. In the eyes of the national media, the Thunder are now what the Blazers were in 2008-09: the young team in the west that can challenge the Lakers now. The TNT announcing crew rode this angle hard–every Blazer bucket was “a great defensive effort by the Thunder that just wasn’t quite enough.” They went into the halftime show with “Durant has 15, Westbrook has 15, and the Thunder trail by seven.” There were a couple of Oden/Durant montages. Even if the Blazers had pulled out a win, the story would have probably been the “valiant comeback effort mounted by the young Thunder team that just proved to be too little too late.” You never like to be on the losing end of a come-from-behind overtime game, but on national TV against this particular division rival…that hurts. Tonight, the Blazers have a chance to exact revenge in Oklahoma City, in the second nationally-televised game between these two teams of the season.
In the week it’s been since the Blazers and Thunder last played, both teams have run into injury concerns. Oklahoma City’s starting power forward, Jeff Green, will not play tonight with an ankle injury, while the Blazers’ Brandon Roy continues to have knee issues that have seen him ask for less playing time recently. The Blazers were able to use their depth and team defense to grind out a win against the Pistons on Tuesday, but the talent gap between Detroit and Oklahoma City is enormous. We don’t need to go over again the presence of one of the top five scorers in the league in Kevin Durant, or of one of the west’s up-and-coming point guards in Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder have gotten off to a slow start, mostly because of their lack of frontcourt depth. If Marcus Camby and LaMarcus Aldridge can pound the ball inside and be aggressive on the boards, it will make the Blazers’ job a lot easier. Other than that, the Blazers’ gameplan needs to be to not necessarily shut down Durant, but to keep him from going off the way he has been known to. With Roy likely not up to full strength, the Blazers’ bench needs to be on its game. Most importantly, the Blazers need to remember that there are four quarters in a game, not three.