Tip-Off: 2 PM CST
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, OK)
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G CJ McCollum is having a solid season so far averaging 23.5 points on 48.6% shooting from the field and 42.0% from three to go with 3.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He has been playing especially well over the Trail Blazers’ last 6 games, though. Portland has won 4 of those 6, and a big reason for the Blazers’ success is McCollum. In those games, he is averaging 25.2 points on 56.1% from the field and 45.2% from three as well as 4.2 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.2 steals. In Oklahoma City’s first matchup with Portland, McCollum did not have too much of an impact as he scored only 15 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 assists, but that was because the Trail Blazers led for most of the game and did not need him to contribute much. Victor Oladipo was injured in the first game, so the matchup between the two guards should be a fun one to watch today.
Keys to the Game
- Limit Portland’s Outside Shots: Portland’s guard duo of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum is one of the most dynamic starting backcourts in the NBA. As a team, the Trail Blazers are pretty solid from behind the arc, and Lillard and McCollum are a big reason why. Portland shoots 35.8% from behind the arc, and nearly half of the team’s three-point shot attempts come from Lillard, who shoots 34.0% from three, and McCollum, who shoots 42.0% from three. In the first game between these two teams, Portland shot only 8/23 (34.8%) from three, but that was all they needed to space the floor and get the job done elsewhere.
- Play Physical Down Low: In the Thunder’s first matchup with the Trail Blazers, Portland absolutely dominated in the paint, outscoring Oklahoma City 53-38. The Thunder ranks 2nd in the NBA in points in the paint with 49.4, points per game, while the Trail Blazers rank 20th with only 41.8 points, so that type of situation should not happen. Oklahoma City needs to impose its dominance early, and like Friday’s game against Memphis, look to get the ball inside. If they are able to establish the offense in the paint, that will open up solid looks from three and give the Thunder a number of different scoring options.
- Keep Up the Intensity: The first game against Portland this season followed a storyline all too familiar for Thunder fans: Oklahoma City came out strong in the 1st quarter to establish a decent lead, and then the bench came in and let it slip away. The Thunder led from the start of the game until the Trail Blazers took their first lead with 7 seconds to go in the 1st quarter. After that, Portland never looked back, and Oklahoma City could do nothing to catch up. Today’s game has a similar situation to the first matchup where the Thunder has one of its top scorers out due to injury. With no Enes Kanter coming off the bench, Oklahoma City will rely heavily on the likes of Anthony Morrow, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Cameron Payne to keep the game under control whenever Russell Westbrook and the other starters have to go to the bench.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.