Trail Blazers @ Thunder: Game 74 Preview
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  1. DHawes22
    Posts: 6488

    Posted 03/28/2010 1:44 PM


    After a convincing 112-101 win over New Orleans to start this quick, two-game road trip, Portland (44-29) heads to the mid-west to battle Oklahoma City (44-27). If last Sunday's game against Phoenix was the biggest of the year, than this is the 2nd biggest to date. The Phoenix loss really put Portland in a hole in regards of climbing out to catch the Suns, which likely won't happen now after losing. While it won't be as hard to catch the Thunder if the Blazers drop one tonight, it may still be out of the question considering how consistent OKC has been this year, never losing more than three straight this year. Two things in Portland's favor tonight are the fact they have already won in OKC earlier this season, 83-74, and are an incredible 13-3 on the second half of back to backs.

    Back on November 1st, Portland was able to hold Kevin Durant to 16 points on 3-20 shooting. Now, I highly doubt he shoots that poorly again, but Batum was unavailable for action that night, meaning it was Webster's fingerprints all over the job that night done on Durant. Obviously, Batum vs. Durant is the matchup Trail Blazer fans everywhere want to see, but if Nico gets in foul trouble or just needs a breather, it'll be imperative for Marty to make defense priority #1 tonight. If the Blazers can keep Durant around his average of 30 points but force him into more than 20 shots in doing so as well as keeping him off the free throw line his third best 10.0 times a night, consider it a successful night on Durant. Nico needs to use his length to give Durant a little space, enticing him to shoot jump shots, rather than attack the middle. If he kills us with jumpers, so be it, but its better than him getting into the paint for cheap buckets all while getting our bigs in foul trouble at the same time.

    The game is going to be won or lost at the charity stripe tonight for the Trail Blazers. During their 89-77 loss on February 9th, the Thunder attempted twice as many free throws as the Blazers, 28 to 14. Granted, Portland was without Roy and had not yet acquired Marcus Camby, but in such a low scoring game with all other statistics comparable, it was their ability to get to the stripe which was the difference. OKC really possess only one legit big man in Kristic and he is further away from being a defensive nightmare than I am from being a member of Cirque Du Soleil. Andre needs to use his veteran craftiness to bait Westbrook into some fouls while Aldridge must use his size advantage in owning Green down on the blocks. I think Portland must get to the stripe at least 20 times tonight to have a chance, because you can't expect your starters to shoot over 75% from the floor once again, let alone on back to back nights.

    Although each Blazer stater has a Player Efficiency Rating above 17 and have carried the Trail Blazer load the previous two games, it's foolish to think they can perform at this level for the remainder of the season. All elite teams have benches they can rely upon and right now, ours is too sporadic to lean on in times of need. Tonight, that must change. Bayless has looked a little better, letting the game come to him rather than rushing each movement out there. Rudy has been more aggressive on defense, playing the passing lanes, but his patented three-point shooting has been off, a little too off. His percentage from beyond the arc is down from 39.9% lat season to 37.5% this year and has hit a recent cold streak, hitting only 3 of his last 14 over the course of the last three games. Marty has been down right chilly since his hot January, but I did like his play late in the game against New Orleans. He didn't settle for contested jumpers, rather he put the ball on the floor and got to the line or made a play for someone else. The bottom line is our core bench of Howard, Bayless, Webster, and Fernandez is on another level compared to the Thunder's Harden, Maynor, Ibaka, and Collison. I'm not asking for much, but the 2nd unit needs to account for at least 20 points and not only sustain the intensity left from the starters but increase it.

    Portland is on a roll right now, winning 12 of their last 15 games, but not until the prior two wins they hadn't beat anyone worthy of writing home about. Both wins lately had been complete team efforts with great ball movement and suffocating defense. I look for this trend to continue mainly due to our superb veterans. I don't see OKC getting many offensive rebounds or keeping Portland off the glass with Camby and Aldridge's length inside and while we can throw Webster and Batum at Durant, who is going to slow down B-Roy when he's dialed in? Thabo, Please! At home, I think Roy feels more comfortable getting his teammates off to a good start first, but on the road, Brandon loves to assert himself to get the team's engine running. He's been incredibly efficient lately, and if he scores anywhere in the 25 point range on less than 15 shots, there is no way Portland doesn't walk away victorious. Portland will come out of the gates like a bat out of hell and never relinquish the lead. Dre frustrates the young Westbrook, Aldridge abuses the smaller Green, and the legend of Batum will continue to grow tonight as he gives Durant fits all night long.

    Game 74 Prediction: Trail Blazers 104 Thunder 91
    Trail Blazers/Thunder Game 74 Preview
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