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Game 72 Preview: Oklahoma City vs. Portland; The Week of Hell Wraps Up

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This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Records: The Oklahoma City Thunder (43-27) vs. The Portland Trail Blazers (44-29)

Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Comcast Sports Net West, Fox Sports Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)

Enemy Blog(s): Bust a Bucket, A Stern Warning, Blazersedge

Previous Meeting(s): Nov. 1, Feb. 9

For Player Matchups, go here.

Backstory: And, we've finally reached the end of the Week of Hell. And how are we doing so far? I'd say an A-. We had a close loss to the Spurs at home, but we've had convincing wins on the only two teams we had yet to beat in the league, the Rockets and Lakers. If you told me this before the week and asked if I would be willing to accept that result, I'd take it in a heartbeat.

But, the Thunder will have to put all of that behind them as they take on another formidable foe in the Portland Trail Blazers. The Trailblazers are a good team, and it wouldn't be a surprise to me at all if they had a blowout win against the Thunder, even after those huge wins.

The Thunder Marketing team are billing this as a "great game for the whole family", presumably because it's an hour earlier, meaning that kids can get to sleep earlier....I guess. Well, I'd highly suggest not taking your kids to this one. It's going to be downright ugly. Both the Thunder and the Blazers are about defense, defense, and more defense, meaning that there's going to lots of offensive stagnation, lots of trips to the free throw line, and a final score that will make you wonder if you've time warped back into the 80s.

All of that being said, there are keys to this game....

1. Kevin Durant will have to score. In the early season matchup, Kevin Durant had one of his worst games of the season, and the Thunder weren't even close. In the other matchup, Kevin Durant had his usual night, and the score wasn't even close.

2. Watch out for X-Factors. The Blazers aren't a team with players that have very set roles. The Thunder's box score is usually about the same, as Durant will get the most, then Westbrook, then Green, then someone like Krstic, Harden, or Ibaka. But, with the Blazers, anybody can step up and be a huge X-Factors for them on the offensive end. This is pretty advantageous, as they can always feed that hot hand.

3. Control the pace. If the Blazers turn this into a half-court game, they can easily put it in the bag, because they're perfectly fine with shooting tough shots and charging to the basket all night long. But, if the Thunder put the game at a bit of a faster pace, the Blazers will commit more turnovers, leading to more easy Thunder baskets, as our quicker forwards outrun the Blazers down the floor.

But in the end, this game is going to come down to which team finds the best way of overcoming the other teams defense, and it's going to be very ugly.

Prediction: Oklahoma City 87, Portland 84