Blazers/Thunder Pre-Thoughts


Quick…what’s the cure for a tough road loss?

The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Joking aside…Before I get to my pre-thoughts, two things I want to say. One, not bringing up a certain city or rivalry. I’m just not ready yet. I’m like that bitter ex-boyfriend whose mood completely changes when her name is brought up. So I’m going to spare myself some anger this morning. Two, not bringing up a certain match-up between sophomores. Overdone to death and I’m not contributing to that mess. Not to mention the fact that they won’t be guarding each other. I’ve always hated when they hype up a matchup of people who won’t be guarding each other. Moreso college than in the pros. I’m ranting. I’m channeling my Ross Perot on those two subjects..I’m just not gonna do it, it wouldn’t be prudent.

Tonight the Blazers will finish their mini-Southwest Swing with their first visit to Oklahoma City. This is the 3rd game in 5 days for the Blazers and the first of two meetings with OKC in the next 5 days. We know how this road trip has gone so far: uber-high after winning at New Orleans and a funky loss in Dallas. Not a hard loss to swallow…but just funky. Like when you rush out of the house to go to class or somewhere and halfway to where you’re going you realize your shirt is a little funky. That kind of funky.

I’m going to make this quick and painless. First and foremost, Portland should win this game. Portland has to win this game. I don’t think there is anyone who believes in the Red & Black who would think otherwise. To get to the places that the players and coaches are talking about and the fans are dreaming about, you can’t lose to Oklahoma City. Under no circumstances can you lose to Oklahoma City. I don’t care where the game is being played. With the talent in the Western Conference, these are the types of games you have to win. Respect the Thunder but they are 11-39 and we’re trying to compete with teams whose records are nearly reversed. Especially as the season dwindles down and we all start scoreboard watching, we’ve got to take care of the bunnies. I know I’ve said this before but it can’t be stressed enough. Look at what B-Roy said after the Dallas game:

“It’s frustrating because we want to take that next step as a team. We know we have to get better, especially on the road, if we want to be one of the top teams.”

Well to get better you have to take care of business in Oklahoma City. The top teams stomp on OKC. I can’t stress this point enough. Even as I do my best to fluff the Thunder up and make them sound like a halfway decent basketball team, make no mistake about it the Blazers HAVE to win this game. Have to. It has to get done. Just like how people need to admit that maybe Jessica Simpson is crossing the line from thick and curvy to…ya know. I’m just saying.

To the Thunder. 2009 has actually been pretty good to old OKC. After coming into the year at 4-30, the Thunder have gone 7-9 so far and stand at 11-39. They have three really talented young players leading the charge. Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook. Durant has turned into a dominant force. In the month of January, Durant averaged 27.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, shot 49.4% from the field and 88.5% from the free throw line. Not to mention he’s coming off back to back 30 point games and has only scored less than 25 points twice in the past month. If you haven’t said damn after those stats got thrown in your face, you must not curse. Jeff Green has developed into a solid companion and Russell Westbrook has been making a push for R.O.Y. ever since he was inserted into the starting lineup. Behind them are some workhorses: Collison and Krstic will go for boards, Kyle Weaver is long, athletic and in there to play defense. But once you get past those three guys…there isn’t much there. And then you realize that Oklahoma City doesn’t do much else good. They turn the ball over a lot, they can’t shoot three’s, they don’t have a post threat, they struggle with basic concepts of defense. You see where this is going.

Keys to the game:

  • Shore up the defense. This is a game to get some of that “defensive identity” back. Or are the Blazers promises of a defensive identity like when Paris Hilton said she wanted to change the world when she got out of jail…only she went back to being Paris Hilton. And yes I just got a Paris Hilton reference in the keys to the game.
  • Contain Westbrook or Green. As established, the Thunder are a three-headed creature offensively. Let’s be honest…Durant is more than likely going to get his and that’s ok. Make him earn it. Durant can dominate and the Thunder can lose. You take Westbrook or Green out and you’ve made life a million times easier. After these guys, no Thunder player is averaging double figures. And, knock on wood, I’m not seeing a 16 point outing from Krstic, Joe ‘I should thank Kwame Brown so people forget I’m really the worst #1 pick ever’ Smith or Earl Watson. Westbrook is going to be a challenge to keep in front, we’ve had trouble with strong penetrating guards of late. Green can slash. Take one of them out.
  • Box out. Collison is a workhorse, Weaver, Green and Westbrook are athletic. We can’t give up second shots if we want to take care of business.
  • Force turnovers. They will cough it up, averaging nearly 17 a game with 3 from Durant and Westbrook. Stay solid but turn the pressure up a few notches.
  • Don’t settle offensively. Weaver, Westbrook and Green are all pretty good defenders on the low. But as team they just aren’t clicking. Portland can’t make it easy on them by just shooting jumpers all night. For some reason I see Travis struggling tonight.

Must-win for the Blazers, have to take care of business in OKC. We’ll see how it goes.