The Oklahoma City Thunder return to action tonight against fellow northwest division foe, Portland. The Trail Blazers are heading into tonight's game coming off of a dominating home stand, and with plenty of motivation to beat down the Thunder tonight. It will be an effort to better their chances at a home court advantage during the first round of the playoffs, sounds like motivation to me. But will momentum and motivation be enough? I guess you could ask the Spurs, although they didn't come into the game against the Thunder with near the momentum that the Blazers will, but they did have the home court advantage, and still lost. Its easy enough for all these teams jockeying for position in the playoff race to overlook the Thunder, after all, a 21-53 record isn't all that daunting now is it? No, of course not, but for anyone who has watched the Thunder these past few months of the season (Probably not many non Thunder fans), one thing is very clear. Despite their record, this young crew of players has been competitive night in and night out, and against good teams or bad. Many teams with their record would have given up by now, but these young players strive to get better with each and every game, and don't quit until the final buzzer sounds.
The Blazers enter tonights game having won four of their last five, and 12 of their last 17 overall. Not too shabby at all, especially heading down the stretch toward the playoffs. Perhaps even more impressive is that in their last 8 games, the two they did lose were in overtime, and one of those were against the LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. One thing is clear, this is a team that is clearly playing some pretty good basketball at the right time of the year.
On the flipside, I think Thunder fans are all too aware of these Jekyll and Hyde like performances over the past couple of weeks. They have had their biggest win of the year over the Spurs at home in the Ford Center (Until the win in San Antonio earlier this week), followed that up with a couple of lousy performances against the Bulls and Jazz before destroying the Timberwolves in Minnesota. From there, they played really quite terrible against the Lakers and Raptors before playing 3 solid quarters against the Celtics in a game that the Celtics dominated late. That's when they went into San Antonio and got another big upset win over one of the leagues top teams, the Spurs, for the second time during March. So which team are we going to get tonight? The one that beatdown the Spurs twice and absolutely destroyed the T-Wolves? I surely hope so, because its going to take that team to beat this streaking Blazers club.
The focus tonight, of course, has to be on Brandon Roy, who comes into this game leading the Blazers in scoring and assists with 23ppg and 5apg. Roy is a handful, but the Thunder have a little something different than the last time the Blazers took on the Thunder, a game Roy scored 22 points, and that's Thabo Sefolosha. Sefolosha's defense of Roy will be key if the Thunder hope to take down the Blazers tonight. After Roy, you have LeMarcus Aldridge who comes in averaging 18 points and 7 boards per game. With Przbilla/Oden in the middle already, Uncle Jeff is going to need to pull Aldridge away from the basket to keep him off the boards. As for dealing with Przbilla/Oden, the Thunder are going to need Krstic and Collison to combine for at least 20 and 15 tonight to have a chance. If the Blazers win the battle of the boards, the Thunder likely won't have much of a chance in this one. After all of that, we'll have to deal with Travis Outlaw off the bench, and a quick look at his numbers (12ppg, 4rpg, 1apg), he doesn't look all that threatening, but if you can remember back to the last time these two teams played, he lit it up off the bench. He reigned down 3-6 from downtown, was 8-15 shooting overall, and had 2 steals, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists. That's some nice production off the bench. All of that and I still haven't even mentioned Rudy Fernandez...oh well, now I did.
I'm also going to invite all the maniacs from over at the BEdge to join us for our Live Commenting thread in addition to their own. I paid them and their ravenous activity tribute yesterday with a PEACE OFFERING, and they responded by giving WTLC its biggest traffic day in our short history, as well as a #1 slot on Ballhype. At the time of this writing, these guys still have us at #3 on Ballhype supplanted only by some of the biggest news to come out of the NFL this offseason, the trading of Jay Cutler, which has taken over the top 2 slots. On a personal level, this was horrible news for me as a lifelong Denver Broncos fan. I thought we finally had a good quarterback for the first time since John Elway, and he's gone. But hey, this isn't a Broncos blog, so enough of that. Bring on the Blazers, and Welcome to Loud City Boys! We're going to be bringing it Loud and Proud for 48 minutes!