|2013-2014 NBA Season|
|February 13th, 2014|
|The Staples Center, Los Angeles, California|
|9:00 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), ESPN LA 710 AM|
|Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Jordan Farmar (Out),|
|Previous Matchups: Dec 13 (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Reggie Jackson||PG||Damian Lillard|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||Wesley Matthews|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Nicholas Batum|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||LaMarcus Aldridge|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Robin Lopez|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|97.4 (11th)||Pace||97.9 (T-8th)|
|107.7 (5th)||ORtg||108.9 (2nd)|
|99.4 (4th)||DRtg||105.3 (T-21st)|
If there's one thing Kevin Durant can do, it's score. If there's one thing Kevin Durant can REALLY do, it's score against the Trail Blazers. He's scored 33, 37, and 46 in his three matchups with Portland this season, never shooting below 46%.
Why has KD been so successful?
- The Trail Blazers absolutely refuse to double-team him.
- The Trail Blazers only let Nicholas Batum defend him, so Durant is never distracted by fresh legs.
Basically, the Blazers outright dare KD to score as many points as he can. Two times out of three, that strategy has worked. When you egg him into taking on so much of the load so early, he tends to fizzle out earlier in the game. Case in point: During the December 4th matchup, he shot 2-5 while Batum went 2-3. That trend continued into the December 31st matchup, with Durant going 0-5 in the fourth while Batum went 2-3.
The exception came during the January 21st game, when Durant went 6-7 in the fourth quarter while Batum went 0-1. What was the difference? To be honest, it's a really hard question to answer. There wasn't much variation in how KD was used between the games, and KD didn't really change direction or focus. The best explanation I can give is that the team did a slightly better job at getting him the ball in the right places, and that there are some nights where guys are just going to dominate.
Really, if the Thunder are going to beat the Blazers tonight, they're going to have to step up when it matters. These two teams have both had legitimate chances to win it deep in the fourth quarter, during every single matchup this season. It seems doubtful that either team would find a critical flaw in the other at this point, though I will say that the KD/Batum matchup is the best indicator of either team's success.
The Blazers aren't exactly in top shape, though. After an extremely strong 31-9 start, they've fallen off over the last few weeks, going 5-6. The schedule has been tough and has featured a lot of away games, but the Trail Blazers have definitely lost their aura as a legitimate contender for the title. There's a greatÂ article about this by Dave Deckard over at Blazer's Edge. In a nutshell, the team became a little bit complacent, players got a little bit too aggressive, and some of their philosophy has gotten lost.
Whether that will come into play tonight is anyone's guess, but I'm gonna go ahead and predict a Blazer victory for now. The Thunder's offense flopped in the fourth quarter against a bad Magic team, and I just don't think that Ibaka or Jackson has proven themselves to be consistently effective enough against the Blazers. Because they single-cover KD, he can't quarterback the team as much as he'd like to, and Ibaka and Jackson have to create more of their own points.
What do you think about tonight's game? Let us know in the comments!
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