2013-2014 Game 42 Preview: Thunder Play Critical Game Vs. Trail Blazers

ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???? - William Bennett Berry

Do the Thunder still have what it takes to win the Northwest Division?

2013-2014 NBA Season
Trailblazers_medium
@
Thunder_medium
31-10
Lost 1

31-10
Won 3
January 21st, 2014
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM Central Standard Time
TV: Fox Sports Network Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Network Northwest
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), 620 AM
Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out)
Previous Matchups: Dec 4thDec 30th (Trail Blazers Lead Season Series 2-0)
Probable Starters
Damian Lillard PG Reggie Jackson
Wesley Matthews SG Thabo Sefolosha
Nicholas Batum SF Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge PF Serge Ibaka
Robin Lopez C Kendrick Perkins
2013/14 Advanced Stats
97.9 (10th) Pace 98.7 (6th)
110.6 (1st) ORtg 106.5 (7th)
105.3 (T-21st) DRtg 98.5 (3rd)

This preview is coming in rather late, and you likely already know the great significance that this game holds. If the Thunder win, they've still got a realistic shot at the division title and a high seed in the West. If they lose, their fate is largely out of their hands, and they'll have to rely on the Blazers to trip up.

The games between these two teams in the past have been epic. The first game was an example of how two superstar scorers could be lulled into low percentage shots, reducing their efficiency just enough for the Blazers to outscore them with the unstoppable machine known as LaMarcus Aldridge. The second game was an example of the post-Westbrook offensive collapses that this team can go through when KD doesn't carry the load.

The Blazers are an unusual animal in that they've beaten the Thunder despite poor performances from most of their stars. Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews have averaged under 40% in the two matchups the two teams have played this season, and the Blazers haven't exactly dominated the boards. But an extremely strong performance from LaMarcus Aldridge along with an extremely low turnover rate have more then made up for it.

Getting to the heart of the matter, Portland is going to try to outscore Oklahoma City. The Thunder can counteract this by fielding an offense that can consistently score without Kevin Durant. If the Blazers proceed to pressure him once he walks past the three point line, other players are going to have to step up. Portland's bigs are slow, so Ibaka shouldn't have too much trouble getting to his shooting spots. The real X-Factor will be Reggie Jackson, who needs to consistently get to the rim and push the pace. Speed is the Blazers weak point, so if you can get them to run up and down the floor or commit two defenders on a regular basis, you've got a solid shot at beating them. Of course, speed is also what manages to kill the Thunder (as Isaiah Thomas' stats would attest), so I don't think their shot at winning this game is too great. But it's definitely possible.

Prediction: Portland Trail Blazers 108, Oklahoma City Thunder 102.

What do you think of tonight's game? Let us know in the poll and comments!

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