This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 9:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Northwest
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Previous Meeting(s): Nov. 1
Last time we met the Trail Blazers, it was early in November, and they beat us by a good margin. The whole game was a slew of defense and fouls, and Kevin Durant had one of the worst games of his career. Our team has changed a bit, since we have Eric Maynor instead of Kevin Ollie and Serge Ibaka instead of Etan Thomas. The Blazers are also a bit different, as they have Juwan Howard instead of Greg Oden, Outlaw is out, and Miller and Bayless are now getting minutes over Blake. But, most importantly, Brandon Roy is out with an ankle injury.
Basically, this means two things. For one, it means the game will be very different. The Trail Blazers won't be so defensively oriented, and the Thunder's replacements will be a bit more offensively efficient. As a result, you'll see more open and reasonable shot attempts, leading to a much more watchable game than last time. Secondly, it also means the dice are loaded in our favour. The Blazers are missing Oden and Outlaw, two big components in their last victory. At the same time, we have upgraded our PG and C positions, making our team more deadly. And, did I mention that Roy is out?
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard is old, but something tells me that he'll be able to keep up with Nenad for the most part. Expect an average game from both of them.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Lamarcus Aldridge
Last time, Jeff Green was actually moderately successful, being that this game is very slasher-oriented. I'd say he'll do the same tonight, while limiting Aldridge to a sub-par performance.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Martell Webster
Last time, both of these guys, in essence, cancelled each other out. This time, Kevin Durant should have the upper hand, giving that the last game was one of the worst in his career, and that he has overcome better defenders than Webster.
Bayless is more of a slasher type, so Sefolosha will have some trouble against him. Nevertheless, don't expect a huge game from him, just a slightly above-average one.
Andre Miller will be decent, but Russell Westbrook will have a great game, because he's a natural slasher, and Miller is only an average defender.
Battle of the Benches:
The Trail Blazers are depleted, but they still have a decent bench, all things considered. Expect Batum and Blake to be potential threats.
Coaching and Intangibles:
The Trail Blazers are at home, but they're also injured, so it's about even.
If the Thunder can focus on slashing to the basket and preventing the Trail Blazers from doing so, they should be able to win the game. I know it sounds simple, but without Brandon Roy, the Trail Blazers have a huge scoring hole on their team. And as long as any single player isn't able to step up and be a main contributor, the Thunder should win the game. It's a simple game, and it should be a simple win.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 97, Portland 90
How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!
And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be by to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!