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Thunder vs Blazers: Start time, TV schedule, and game preview

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Oklahoma City head to the PNW

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Broadcast Details:

Start time: 9:00 p.m. (CT)

Broadcasters: Bally Sports Oklahoma and NBA League Pass

In the Thunder’s last fixture, the team was walloped by the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix controlled the game from start to finish and racked up a huge win on their quest for postseason glory.

It is one of the few times this season where Oklahoma City looked overwhelmed and really uncomfortable on the court.

While the Thunder did not stop fighting and kept on battling for all 48 minutes, their efforts were in vain in a blowout loss. OKC has been competitive all season long despite having so much fluidity with the roster.

The Thunder have been able to win games despite not having key players available, but eventually, the lack of talent will be a factor.

I have a lot of love for Moses Brown, Aleksej Pokusevski, and Ty Jerome, but the reality is inescapable; this is a young roster that needs time to grow and find consistency.

Oklahoma City has won games without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Darius Bazley, and Al Horford over the last few weeks but getting a team of young, inexperienced players to beat the odds on a nightly basis is hugely difficult.

The Portland Trailblazers are 4-1 in their last five games, with the only loss coming against the Milwaukee Bucks. Norman Powell's acquisition has provided Portland with another reliable scoring threat who can support Damian Lillard and his hyper-efficient offensive creation.

The Blazers have struggled with injury; Jusuf Nurkic, CJ McCollum, and Zach Collins have all missed extended periods of time.

However, somehow, Lillard has kept the Blazers above water, and they are surging at the right time. Portland is looking strong in the season's final stretch and will be a tough team in the postseason.

In the past, I have been critical of Damian Lillard, but he deserves respect for dragging Portland to a respectable berth in the bloodbath that is the Western Conference. For my money, Lillard is in the MVP conversation with Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic; he has just been exceptional on a nightly basis.

The Moda Center trip comes on the second night of a back-to-back for the Thunder, and this game certainly feels like a schedule loss.

At this moment in time, losing is not a bad thing for the Thunder. If the season finished today, OKC would be 9th in the lottery. This season aimed to get a high draft pick, and right now, Oklahoma City is not in the best position to achieve that objective.

A broad overview of other tanking teams makes for interesting reading. Chicago is currently 8th in the lottery, but their strength of schedule is marginally weaker than the Thunder’s, and they have made moves to improve the roster in the present. The acquisition of Nikola Vucevic should add wins to their record and help the Thunder’s pick to rise.

Orlando and Cleveland are both interesting cases in the tank race. The Magic have finally pulled the pin on the Gordon/Vucevic/Fournier core and have embraced the rebuild. Orlando is ranked 16th in strength of schedule for the rest of the season, but the Magic’s roster is painfully thin, and it isn't easy to see them winning more games than the Thunder.

Cleveland is currently 4th in lottery odds, but the Cavs’ strength of schedule is the weakest in the league. The Cavaliers have plenty of winnable games, and it is not difficult to see Cleveland picking up more wins than many will expect. Whether the Cavaliers win enough game to improve the Thunder’s pick is a different question altogether.

The last team, the Washington Wizards, are trying very hard to win games and make the play-in tournament. Russell Westbrook is playing 35 minutes a night as Scott Brooks’ men fight to make it back to the playoffs for the first time in a while.

Looking at these four teams, the Thunder may be able to move up a few spots in the draft lottery. Providing that the Thunder gets to 6th or 7th in the lottery is a good season, given that the lottery may elevate the pick even further. The Thunder’s destiny is in their own hands and will be for the last 23 games of the season.