Game 76 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

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Blazers: 43-32

Thunder: 50-24

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, France), PF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), C LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas)

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″, Congo), C Kendrick Perkins (#5, 6’10″, Clifton J. Ozen High School)

The good news: this game isn’t on national TV. Watching it in HD will be an option without having to hear five-minute soliloquies from Jeff Van Gundy about how poised Kevin Durant is for not picking up a technical on the increasingly rare occasions where he’s actually called for a foul. There will be no infographics comparing Durant and Greg Oden. We’ll probably get to see an on-screen interview with LaMarcus Aldridge that’s about how his own team is playing, not about how much he respects Durant.

That alone will make this game more watchable than their match last Sunday, but a better performance from the home team will help. That night, we got a firsthand look at just how good the Thunder are with Kendrick Perkins anchoring the front line. The matchups, which I detailed on Sunday, haven’t changed. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are still a lot for any defense to handle on a good day, and their depth at this point outstrips Portland’s.

The Blazers’ loss in New Orleans on Wednesday made way for the Hornets to pass Portland in the standings. If the top half of the standings stay where they are, Portland’s ideal first-round matchup is Dallas, which would require the Blazers to get back to the sixth seed. There are seven games left in the season, and none of them except for maybe Utah and Golden State will be any easier than this one tonight. Their remaining schedule is filled with Western Conference playoff teams jostling for position in the standings, and if the Blazers want to prove they belong in that discussion, they need to win as many of them as they can.

I would like to extend a special shout-out to our friends at Blazersedge for putting together yet another “Blazersedge Night” for this game, giving a few hundred kids the opportunity to see a game who otherwise wouldn’t be able to. These kids are in for a treat whether the Blazers win or lose—as we all know, the Rose Garden atmosphere is unlike any other—but a victory would make it that much sweeter.

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