Thunder-Trail Blazers Preview
The Portland Trail Blazers have started to establish themselves
as a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.
Beating the surging Oklahoma City Thunder would only further
Seeking a seventh straight home win, Portland tries to avoid an
eighth consecutive loss to the Thunder as these Northwest Division
rivals meet Wednesday night.
After finishing 33-49 last season, the Trail Blazers (15-3) have
made huge strides early. Led by LaMarcus Aldridge (22.7) and Damian
Lillard (20.6), Portland is averaging 104.7 points to rank near the
top of the NBA.
The Trail Blazers are coming off their most impressive win to
date, 106-102 over league-leading Indiana on Monday. Aldridge had
28 points and 10 rebounds, and Lillard added 26 points as Portland
handed the Pacers their second loss.
“It was a tough one, and we knew it was going to be a tough one
going in,” said Lillard, whose team has won 13 of 14. “They’re a
good team, they only had one loss. But we’re a good team too, and
we wanted to prove that.”
The Blazers extended their home winning streak to six and are on
the verge of their best overall start since opening 27-3 in
1990-91. While Portland has looked every bit the contender thus
far, coach Terry Stotts knows his team still has a long way to
“You don’t win in this league without being tough,” Stotts said.
“We played the most complete game from beginning to end: Execution,
effort, mental focus. All of those things. But I don’t believe you
play statement games in December.”
A rare win over the Thunder (13-3) would surely give the Blazers
even more confidence going forward. Portland, though, has lost
seven straight to Oklahoma City by an average of 12.6 points and
dropped 10 of 12 in the series since 2010-11.
The Thunder opened a three-game trip with their eighth
consecutive win, 97-95 over Sacramento on Tuesday. Kevin Durant had
27 points and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which nearly let a
17-point lead slip away while getting outscored 30-19 in the fourth
“We just have to be better,” Durant told the NBA’s official
website. “Of course we can never take a win for granted. It’s hard
to win in this league.”
While the Thunder held the Kings to 39.3 percent shooting, they
committed 17 turnovers and only forced eight – their second-lowest
total of the season.
“There are no nights off in the West,” said coach Scott Brooks,
whose team improved to 4-3 on the road. “The West is so good and
there are so many good teams and tough places to play.
“We have to play better (Wednesday) night. We’re playing one of
the hottest teams in the game right now. They have a great home
crowd and have a great atmosphere. But our team has always been up
for challenges and definitely (Wednesday) night will be a tough
challenge for us.”
Durant, who went 8 of 21 from the field Tuesday, is shooting
just 42.7 percent on the road compared to 46.9 at home. The
three-time scoring champ, though, leads the NBA with 28.2 points
The Blazers could also have their hands full with Russell
Westbrook, who is averaging 26.8 points over the last 12 meetings
in the series. Lillard, meanwhile, posted just 12.7 points per game
on 29.5 percent shooting in the last three.
Lillard is averaging 5.7 assists, down from last season’s mark
of 6.5. Portland is 11-0 when he dishes out at least six.