This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 6 PM Central Standard Time (REMEMBER, Daylight Savings Time just went into effect! And, yes, it is at 6 PM! So don't come to the game two hours late!)
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Northwest
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Backstory: Okay, so we're 2-0. And the Trailblazers are 1-2. But that says nothing as such about how good either of these teams are. Or does it? The Trailblazers have lost close games to the powerful Nuggets and the surprisingly good Rockets. This could work in our favor, in that the Blazers are actually worse than everyone thought they were. But, it could also work against us, in that the Blazers are just as good as we thought they were, and they're looking for revenge.
But, if nothing else, those past two games have proven that the Blazers are human, and they are very beatable. So, what will it take for the Thunder to discover their weaknesses, defeat them, and become an improbable 3-0?
First of all, we need to make sure that the Trailblazers second X-Factor doesn't kick in. No matter what, they'll always have Brandon Roy and another player scoring close to 20 points or over. The thunder have to make sure that a 3rd option doesn't kick in 15 or so points, because that's what could drive them to victory. I guess this could be summarized as "just play good defense", but if a guy starts getting hot, we need to be sure to cover him.
Second of all, for Pete's sake, stop turning over the ball! All we've done these past two games is fumble the ball into our opponents hands, and it hasn't been James Harden's fault. Unless we somehow force the Trailblazers into a fast break game, 11 or 12 turnovers like we've been getting just isn't going to cut it.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Greg Oden
This is yet another opportunity for Krstic to showcase his mid-range jumper. Oden isn't mobile enough to move out there with him, and if Aldridge doesn't have any ideas, this will lead to a huge scoring advantage. Nevertheless, Oden will straight up dominate Krstic in the post, so I have a feeling this might be an offensive battle, with Oden having the overall advantage.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Lamarcus Aldridge
This is an intriguing matchup. These guys will undoubtedly be going at it all game, and have nearly equal stat lines. Jeff Green is a bit quicker, but Aldridge will have more help inside. I'd say this finishes in a dead tie.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Martell Webster
Martell Webster is a good player in his own right, but Kevin Durant wins this matchup all the way. Webster might hit a 3, but other than that, he won't have much of a game against Durant, and this is a huge opportunity for Durant to have a field day. I'd say Durant gets 35 points or more tonight.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Brandon Roy
Yet another easy win, this time for Brandon Roy. Thabo Sefolosha might force a couple of bad shots, a couple of turnovers, or just overall get in his grill, but you can expect the same 20 plus amount of points scored tonight from Roy. And Thabo is still a good defender, he's just had some super-tough matchups these last 3 games.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Steve Blake
Russell Westbrook gets the win here. Steve Blake is a good sharpshooter and distributor, but he is also a poor defender. And, believe me, Westbrook will be able to take advantage of that. But, Andre Miller lies in wait, and while Westbrook will have a tougher time against him, he's still a better player, and Ollie will probably be facing Miller half of the time.
Battle of the Benches
There's absolutely no question that the Blazers win here. Hands down. Don't even consider putting the Thunder in the same league as these guys, much less actually competing with them. The Blazers have one of the best 10-man rotations in the league with Pryzbilla, Howard, Outlaw, Fernandez, and Miller; the Thunder have Nick Collison, Etan Thomas, Kevin Ollie, James Harden, and, if you're lucky, some Serge Ibaka. The Blazers will destroy our bench.
Coaching and Intangibles
Nate McMillan has been coaching these same players for quite some time, and everyone says that this is the year they turn into a contender, so the Blazers definitely have that on their side. Yet, the Blazers are on a 2 game skid, playing the 2nd game of a back-to-back, and facing the marvelous Ford Center crowd. I'd say this category tilts in the Thunder's direction, but the Blazers still have some things going their way.
This is our first chance to prove ourselves nationally. If we can jump to a 3-0 start, and do it while beating the Blazers, then some people will start to take notice. But, if we lose this game, there will be a collective sigh, and it will take a lot more to get our name out there. I'd like to say we can seize this opportunity by the horns, take care of the ball, play great defense, distribute our scoring, and come out on top, but I just can't.
Trailblazers 95, Thunder 90
The Blazers are an experienced team, and they've dealt with these types of situations before. I'm sorry, but as a basketball analyst, I think they'll come out on top. However, as a fan, I think we've got the tools to win. Thus, Go Thunder!
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 in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!