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Thunder vs Trail Blazers, preview and gamethread: OKC looks to take season series against Portland; Update — no Grant or Schroder

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OKC takes on yet another strong playoff contender, but could make a statement tonight against their division rivals.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Game: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Portland Trail Blazers

Time: 7PM CST

Location: Chesapeake Arena, OKC

Broadcast: FSOK

Counterpart: Blazers Edge

***

Update

Dennis Schroder is also listed as out tonight for personal reasons:

The Thunder are down to 9 rotation players tonight, which means Ray Felton, who has not seen meaningful minutes since OKC’s loss to Dallas on 12/30/18, will be backing up Westbrook.

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The Thunder are back in action tonight in the aftermath of an epic comeback win over the Houston Rockets over the weekend. The Thunder have made a significant push after stumbling a bit during the beginning of 2019, creating some separation between themselves and both the Blazers and Rockets in the standings. Furthermore, they now trail the Nuggets by only a single game, and with 2 more wins this week, OKC could potentially find themselves in a virtual tie for 2nd place heading into the All-Star break (but Denver has still beaten the Thunder twice this season).

The Blazers were in action yesterday, dropping a gut-punch game to the Mavericks. In a contest where Portland looked to be in control after 3 quarters, they went over 10 minutes without a field goal in the 4th and managed only 9 total points.

Portland’s ending, combined with the back-to-back affair tonight against OKC, points toward a game strategy of a reliance on defense to make the Blazers work. Over the course of 4 quarters, if OKC can wear them down, and in particular Jusuf Nurkic, who has pummeled OKC on the interior, the Thunder have a good shot at winning.

Of particular note — the Thunder will be shorthanded tonight. Not only has Alex Abrines been officially released, Jerami Grant will be out of action as well:

The big question tonight will be who Donovan decides to run in Grant’s place. Patrick Patterson seems to be the most obvious choice, as 2Pat has found some consistency after struggling early on. In addition, if OKC goes small they could stick Abdel Nader or even Deonte Burton at the 3 while shifting Paul George to the 4. Donovan will need to assess how OKC is defending Portland’s guard play early on and, if need be, make changes quickly before Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum get hot shooting the ball.

In the end, the game will largely hinge on OKC’s ability to defend the high pick and roll, something they have struggled with as of late and which the Blazers are well-equipped to capitalize on, as Nurkic is a good screener who can either roll and post up, or fade to the perimeter and pull Adams away from the rim. Russell Westbrook, Terrance Ferguson, and George will have their hands full.

Personal favor — it would be great if OKC didn’t fall behind by 20 in the first half this time out.

Poll

Who do you think will win tonight?

This poll is closed

  • 86%
    Thunder
    (232 votes)
  • 13%
    Blazers
    (35 votes)
267 votes total Vote Now