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Thunder Gameday: @ Portland Trail Blazers (52-28) Game Preparation

Well, here we are, with just two games to go, and while the latter of the two is the game that the Thunder are more likely to win, this game is one that Thunder fans should want more. The first and foremost reason for this is the 35 point drumming the Blazers laid on the Thunder during a recent trip to the Ford Center. That loss, combined with another bad loss a few days later, prompted head Coach Scott Brooks to call out his teams "Lack of Effort" in public, for the first time all year. The second reason is because this is a division game, one that the Blazers have high stakes in, as they try to lock up home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. The Blazers, Nuggets, Rockets, and Spurs are all still jockeying for position in the Western Conference Playoffs, from 2nd up to the 5th slot, and all four teams are separated by just a game and a half. The third reason is that it would tie up the season series at two games apiece, and potentially ignite a real rivalry between the two teams that will only become more heated over the next few seasons.

During my last "Gameday Preview" when these two teams matched up, I clearly overlooked one of the Blazers biggest weapons. I did mention him once in the article, but I honestly think he must have read it and got pissed off that I didn't make more of a mention of him, because the dude went nuts on us and scored 35 points, while grabbing 18 boards. Pure insanity sir, if you do that to us again tonight, we will get our asses kicked up and down the floor all night long. How's that for a better mention Mr Aldridge? Hope this makes you feel a bit better, I've just devoted and entire paragraph to you. We must stop LMA first and foremost tonight, if we want to win.

Seems most other fans around the NBA drool at the young talent on our team, but if there was one team, and fan set that isn't, it has to be the Blazers. This roster is chalked full of youthful talent, and tons of depth to keep killing you even with their starters on the bench. I already mention LMA, so of course the next guy on the list is Brandon Roy, and if you don't know about Roy by now, well, you really need to start paying attention because the guy is easily one of the best young shooting guards in the game today, and the guy can kill, all by himself if he has to. Steve Blake is a guy that flies under the radar quite a bit, but during the recent walloping the Blazers gave the Thunder, Blake dished out 10 assists and scored 14 points. If you ask most teams in the league if they'll take 14 points and 10 assists on a daily basis from their point guard, I don't think many teams are going to turn that kind of production down. Przybilla, Batum, Oden, Outlaw, Fernandez, and Jerryd Bayless are just some of the other guys on this roster. Seriously, their roster is insane, and they are already prepared to make some noise in the playoffs this season, and even more so in years to come. They are stacked with youthful talent the likes of which no one else in the league can rival...except, perhaps the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are just a few years behind in their development process.

To make matters worse, the Blazers are hot, really hot. They have won 8 out of their last 9 games, with the only loss coming to a very good Rockets team in Houston. Included during that stretch was the game they destroyed the Thunder. So you can see just how well these guys are playing right now. As for us, we pull off a terrific home win on Friday and eliminate the Bobcats from the playoffs with arguably our best and most intense defensive performance of the year. The bad part is that in our very next game, we laid an egg against the Bucks. In our teams defense, that was on the very next night after the Bobcats win, and was in Milwaukee. Those quick turnaround games with traveling generally puts added stress on a team, and it clearly showed against the Bucks. So lets hope that after an Easter Sunday off, they have been able regroup and will put together an effort that rivaled the one we saw on Friday. That is the kind of effort its going to take to have a shot at winning this game.

Also, if you are a Blazers fan who happened on the site today or are a member of the BEdge and didn't see this last time, when these two teams met, I made a little peace offering to show the mutual respect that I hope will emcompass this brewing new rivalry. They fine folks who run and frequent Blazers Edge even helped to bring this up to the #1 slot on Ballhype, where it stood until the Jay Cutler trade to the Chicago Bears finally unseated us from the top slot. You guys are animals, I only hope to someday have that kind of rabid following here at Welcome to Loud City.