The Oklahoma City Thunder will play in front of their home crowd for the first time this year tonight at 8 p.m. EST vs. the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Thunder lost at the buzzer last night to the San Antonio Spurs who’s Tony Parker made the game-winning shot as time expired.
Oklahoma City did not have their best stuff in that game shooting 37.7 percent from the field with Russell Westbrook leading the way going 6-for-21 from the field.
Westbrook was matched up with Parker last night and we can expect a better performance from him going against a rookie point guard in Damian Lillard tonight. Lillard was great in Portland’s season opener scoring 22 points to go with 11 assists in a win vs. the Lakers but Westbrook will be a very tough task for him.
Westbrook torched the Blazers last year in four games shooting 51.7 percent from the field and scoring 27.5 points per game to go with 7.3 assists.
Kevin Durant was not aggressive enough vs. San Antonio last night. He ended up taking only 18 shots and scoring 23 points while he seemed to focus more on being a playmaker in the offense. Durant should be motivated to bounce back strong tonight but Portland has defended him well in the past and can throw a decent defender at him in Nicolas Batum.
Durant’s numbers were a little down vs. Portland last year scoring 25.8 points per game and shooting 46.7 percent from the field.
Kevin Martin made his Thunder debut last night and was also passive on offense. He scored 15 points and had five assists but passed up a lot of scoring opportunities that he will need to take on this team. He looked a little nervous when he first came in and now getting to play his second game with OKC at home may lead to him settling down more and playing more loose.
When you play the Trail Blazers, the first goal is to contain LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge is coming off a great season in which he averaged 21.7 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Serge Ibaka should be matched up with Aldridge for most of the game and it will be important for Ibaka not to bite on the crafty fakes Aldridge will throw at him and instead play sound defense.
Aldridge averaged 26.0 points per game vs. the Thunder last year and averaged 7.5 free throw attempts per game as well.
Portland shot the three ball well in their first game vs. the Lakers, making 9-of-20 attempts. Batum and Wesley Matthews led the way accounting for seven of those makes. Portland has a great home court advantage which helped them in that game but those guys are still capable of filling it up even when on the road.
The Thunder did a nice job on the defensive glass vs. the Spurs and will need to repeat that kind of performance tonight and moving forward to win a lot of games. San Antonio had just six offensive boards last night.
We did not see the Thunder rookies last night which is unsurprising since head coach Scott Brooks always favors players with more experience. In last night’s case it was Thabo Sefolosha getting more minutes while Perry Jones III and Jeremy Lamb rode the pine.
The home environment may be better for the debut of Jones and possibly even Lamb, especially if the Thunder get out to a lead, either could see some action.
The Thunder have the best home court in the NBA right now. After a heartbreaking loss vs. San Antonio last night, the crowd may very well have enough in them to will the Thunder to a win if they again aren’t playing their best.