Mar. 27, 2012; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) reaches in on Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) during the third quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. The Thunder won the game 109-95. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Oklahoma City Thunder 2012-13 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns.


Portland Trail Blazers Team Overview

The Blazers started last season off looking like they might be one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They played tough defense and an All-Star talent in LaMarcus Aldridge who was poised for a breakout season.

They started the year 7-2 in their first nine games and then it was downhill from there. They finished the season with a 28-38 record and lost their final seven games.

They traded away Gerald Wallace midseason for a first round draft pick that landed in the lottery. With two lottery picks in the draft, Portland went out and got two players they are very excited about in Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard.

Lillard already looks like a point guard who will be competing for the Rookie of the Year Award next season and Leonard is a great athlete at his position.

The next big move Portland made in the offseason was matching Minnesota’s offer sheet for Nicolas Batum. It came at a large price ($45 million) but Portland sees Batum as an important piece going forward.

The Blazers aren’t guaranteed to be a playoff team next season. A lot has to go right for that to happen. Aldridge needs to keep progressing and become the superstar they need him to be.

Last year

The Oklahoma City Thunder played Portland four times last season and beat them three times.

In the first meeting on Jan. 3, Portland beat OKC 103-93. Aldridge led the way with 30 points and eight rebounds as Portland’s defense made things very tough for the Thunder.

Kevin Durant went 8-for-26 from the field and had only 19 points. Russell Westbrook had 22 points and eight assists. James Harden started, played 40 minutes and scored 23.

The Thunder won the next game in overtime in Portland. The Thunder were fortunate in this game to make it to overtime when goaltending was controversially called in favor of OKC to send the game into the extra period.

Durant had 33 points on 15-for-33 shooting. Westbrook had 28 points, eight assists and 11 rebounds. Harden scored 19 off the bench. Aldridge was huge again for Portland with 39 points and six boards.

The Thunder won easily at home in their next meeting 111-95. Durant had 26 points and Westbrook 28. Harden scored 14, went 1-for-7 from the field but 11-for-14 from the free throw line. Aldridge was held to 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting.

The Thunder won easily again in the fourth meeting in Portland 109-95. The Thunder shot 57.0 percent from the field. Durant had 25, Westbrook had 32 and Harden had 21 on 6-of-7 shooting. Aldridge had just 20.

Durant averaged 25.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game vs. Portland in the four games. He shot .467 percent from the field and .360 percent from three.

Westbrook averaged 27.5 points, 7.3 assists and 5.8 rebounds per game. He shot .517 percent from the field.

Harden averaged 19.3 points and shot .513 percent from the field and .389 percent from three.

The matchup

The Blazers had the 11th best overall offense in the league last year in terms of points per possession. They were 3rd best on post-up plays, 5th best on spot-up plays and 3rd best on isolation plays. They were just 23rd on pick-and-roll plays however.

The Thunder were very good on defense in all of those areas but in the post, Portland had an advantage going to Aldridge which was evident in the first two meetings of the season. When he had it going, it opened up the rest of the offense for Portland as well.

Portland finished just 19th overall defensively last season. The Thunder have an advantage on every type of play. Portland’s pick-and-roll defense was solid ranking 12th in the league but overall they just didn’t have enough to slow down the high-powered Thunder offense.

Next year

Portland hopes to take a step forward next season but it won’t be easy in the Western Conference where there is so much competition. Lillard is very promising and Aldridge and Batum are good players but that isn’t enough on its own to make the playoffs in the West.

The Thunder will play Portland four times first on Nov. 2 in OKC, then in Portland Jan. 13, then in OKC March 24 and finally back in Portland April 12.

The Blazers played the Thunder really tough in their first two meetings last season and could be a tough out for the Thunder again next year. Aldridge had some big games against them and Durant struggled from the field somewhat as well.

The Thunder still found a way to pull out victories vs. Portland last year and they will probably be able to do it again next season.

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Tags: Oklahoma City Thunder Portland Trail Blazers

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