This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (50-24) at The Portland Trail Blazers (43-32)
Time: 9:00 PM Central Daylight Time
Place: The Rose Garden, Portland, Oregon
TV: Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Northwest
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Newsradio 750 KXL
This game is not so much about slamming the door on the Trail Blazers as it is chasing the Mavericks. The Trail Blazers may or may not have a mathematical chance of catching us for the Northwest Division lead, but if the chance does exist, it is very small at this point. On the other hand, the Mavericks recently lost to the Lakers, and are now only 2.5 games ahead of the Thunder in the race for the third seed in the West.
Lest we forget, the Trail Blazers are a fearsome opponent, especially at home. The Supersonics holdouts will likely make an appearance, along with the rabid Rip City fans who are still hopeful about what was thought to be a lost cause of a season.
As with the other Trail Blazers games, expect this one to be a closely contested defensive battle. Who scores for the Trail Blazers varies heavily from night to night, but the Thunder should keep a close eye on LaMarcus Aldridge, Andre Miller, and Gerald Wallace. If the Thunder can hinder or shut down one of those three, they'll have a good shot at winning. Brandon Roy will also see time, but nagging injuries have reduced him to role player status.
Also as before, the Thunder will keep the post on lockdown, so Aldridge can't feast on the inside, and Andre Miller can't drive to the hoop as he usually does. Unfortunately, the Thunder really don't have an answer for Gerald Wallace, as he's too big for a guy like Thabo Sefolosha, and he's too small to be guarded by someone like Ibaka. Thus, he's left to go into a scoring battle with Kevin Durant, who has improved his defense lately, but is still only slightly above-average at best on defense.
But when it comes down to it, the Trail Blazers will lose this game on size. Marcus Camby is their only center, and he's probably the most helpful guy they have in this game. Why? Because when the Trail Blazers play small, Batum gets owned by Ibaka in the paint. If they play big with Camby and Aldridge, it helps stifle Ibaka and forces the Thunder to rely on a turnover-prone Westbrook and Durant for their scoring. But, Camby can only play so much of the game, and the Trail Blazers just have a few more exploitable holes than the Thunder do. So I'm predicting a season sweep of the Trail Blazers in grandiose fashion.
Prediction: Oklahoma City 98, Portland 94