The Thunder meet the Blazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena on October 30 20:00 (EST). The Blazers have started the season 2-2 and will wrap up their road trip against the Thunder on Wednesday night. The game against Portland starts a three game home stand for the Thunder where they will play the Blazers, the Pelicans and the Orlando Magic. Over the next three games, the Thunder have three winnable games which could get the team back over .500. The Blazers will be looking to start a win streak and stop alternating wins/losses. They had a tough loss on Monday night at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs who won 113-110.
Three Points to Note for the Thunder:
1. Steven Adams' left knee contusion kept him out of the end of the Houston game last night and it is unknown whether he will be available for the game against Portland. I am firm believer that Adams needs time to deal with the knee injury which has likely affected for an extended period of time. The question for Billy Donovan is who starts at the centre spot? Nerlens Noel provides the size match-up which could nullify Hassan Whiteside's voracious rebounding but Mike Muscala presents an interesting argument on offence. Muscala's ability to space the floor will drag Whiteside out of the paint on the offensive end and remove the block threat that Hassan presents. It will also mean that SGA has more space to work inside.
2. The three-guard lineup has been used extensively by Billy Donovan during the first three games of the season. The unit has played twenty five minutes together and these minutes have usually been played down the stretch of a close game. It currently has a positive net rating of +5.1 over this period but the choice of lineup has serious concerns. It is an incredibly small unit and could struggle against Portland's bigger wings. Billy could choose to persevere with this unit so that the pace and playmaking of the Thunder remains high but he could also choose to insert Ferguson into this unit instead of Schroeder. Terrance Ferguson is one of the few big wings on the Thunder who could deal with this type of player and therefore could be an option worth considering.
3. The Thunder's offence has looked very inconsistent over the first three games. The promised ball movement and pacy offence has come to the fore but there have been occasional lapses back into isolation style basketball. Against the Houston Rockets, this was a serious issue as the Thunder squandered a significant lead during a four minute stretch where every player went iso. The Thunder cannot afford these lapses on offence as the team does not have a guaranteed bucket-getter when the offence stagnates like the team has had in previous seasons.
Bullets for the Traiblazers:
1. Zach Collins has been ruled out of this game due to a left shoulder injury. Collins has become an important part of the Blazers' rotation as they look to find production from their front-court with Jusuf Nurkic injured. It is possible that they use Skas Labissiere or Anthony Tolliver to soak up the minutes void left behind by the injury.
2. Dame Time is definitely back on the menu. Damian Lillard had an inconsistent game against the Spurs on Monday night. He did not shoot particularly well but scored eighteen points in the fourth quarter as he led a Blazers' comeback. He'll be the player to watch down the stretch for the Blazers.
The Thunder's press beat has changed significantly. Brett Dawson has moved from covering the Thunder on behalf of The Athletic to cover both of the LA basketball teams. The Athletic has brought in Erik Horne (formerly of The Oklahoman) to replace him. The Oklahoman have promoted Maddie Lee to the travelling beat reporter who covers the away games and have moved Joe Mussato into the home beat reporter spot. Mussato's previous beat was OU sports.
Thunder Up Lads