Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Jan 21, 2014; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) drives the ball by Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0) and is called for an offensive foul during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

 

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. PST, the Portland Trail Blazers (36-15) will host the Oklahoma City Thunder (41-12). You can still find Trail Blazer tickets if you’re looking to go to the game. After going 2-2 during their four game road trip, the Trail Blazers are back home to face the always dangerous Thunder. The road trip wasn’t a complete failure but definitely could have had a more positive outcome. Losing to the Wizards was a terrible start, but the Trail Blazers did secure wins against the Knicks and Timberwolves. The loss to the Pacers in overtime was gut wrenching, but the offense and defense showed signs of life again.

The Trail Blazers will play tonight at home then tomorrow on the road against the Clippers before they have their All-Star break. Tonight’s game will be broadcast on NBATV and should be entertaining. This will be the fourth and final meeting with Oklahoma City. Portland has been able to win two games in the series despite Kevin Durant’s scoring barrage against them. The last meeting was a 105-97 loss in Oklahoma City. In that game, Portland looked like they would go up 3-0 in the season series but Durant scored 11 of his 46 points in the final 3:23 to save his team.

As with every other team in the NBA, Portland will have a hard time slowing down Durant. Since Westbrook has been sidelined, Durant has averaged 34.7 points, including a streak of 12 games with 30-plus points. That is 3.5 points better than his season average and he’ll look to continue his unbelievable play tonight. In three meetings with the Trail Blazers this season, Durant is averaging 38.7 points while shooting 54.1 percent. He plays against Portland four times every year and he really likes to put on a show every time they meet. I would expect nothing else from him tonight.

 

Injury News

Portland Trail Blazers:

  • Mo Williams has not been confirmed for tonight’s matchup, after missing two games to tend to his ailing sister; however, he is currently in flight back to Portland to rejoin the team.

Oklahoma City Thunder:

  • Russell Westbrook is still out as he recovers from knee surgery.

 

Keys To The Game

Kevin Durant vs. LaMarcus Aldridge. The two All-Stars have been excellent in this series all season. I mentioned the run that Durant has been on against the Trail Blazers but LaMarcus Aldridge has been hot against the Thunder too. Aldridge is averaging 30.7 points and 14.3 rebounds in this season’s series. Four of the last six times the Thunder have visited Portland, Aldridge has scored at least 32 points. If the Trail Blazers can get him the ball early in his sweet spot (in between the block and the wing), they will have a chance to take the season series from the Thunder.

Nicolas Batum’s Defense. As we all know, Batum is long and lanky; just like Kevin Durant. He will most likely be assigned to watch Durant tonight and he must be focused on his defense. Durant can hit from outside and create his own shot off the dribble. It will be key for Batum to not fall for Durant’s shot fakes and keep him in front of him. Durant is going to score and he may score a lot. Batum’s job is to minimize Durant’s impact on the game.

C.J. McCollum. This is might be the first time McCollum has been mentioned in this section. He is coming off a tremendous performance in Minnesota in which he had a season (and career) high 19 points and a season high 28 minutes of action. With Mo Williams’ status uncertain, McCollum will have a to be a contributing role player once again. He was quoted saying, “I feel more comfortable every game. Obviously I’m a confident person and I put a lot of work in and trust myself. But it’s more about game trust, team trust and coach trust. They know what I’m capable of obviously from practice but it’s about translating it into the game.”

 

 

Topics: Cj Mccollum, Kevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, Mo Williams, Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers

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