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Oklahoma City Thunder (41-12) vs Portland Trailblazers (36-15) preview


Current Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (41-12), Portland Trailblazers (36-15)

Last time they met: Oklahoma City Thunder (105) defeated Portland Trailblazers (97)

Tickets: Thunder vs. Trail Blazers tickets

Pre-game Notes:

What an enticing Western Conference battle we have on the cards. The Oklahoma City Thunder will try and replicate their performance from January 21 as they attempt to get the win over the Portland Trailblazers and tie the season series between the two sides at two all.

The Thunder have won 3 of their past 4 with their only loss coming against the Orlando Magic who were able to secure a buzzer beating win on a Tobias Harris dunk. They should be fairly confident though after defeating the New York Knicks in their last outing where Durant was one assist shy of a triple double to go along with his 41 points.

Portland are at home where they play very well and took down the Minnesota Timberwolves in their last clash. LaMarcus Aldridge continued his stellar season with yet another terrific all around game, and rookie CJ McCollum played valuable minutes off the bench.

This should be an intense clash, highlighted by some superstar performances and tough defensive assignments. The Blazers will need to find a way to combat Durant, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson, while the Thunder will have to try and nullify Aldridge, Lillard and Batum – something they have struggled with so far this season.

Key Matchups:

Kevin Durant vs Nicholas Batum

The brilliant offensive game of Kevin Durant against the close defensive checking of Batum. Although these games are not one on one, these battles are a treat for basketball fans to watch and ultimately play a huge role in who takes the W. If Durant can get it going, he is very tough to slow down, so Batum is going to try and work him over early. He will get some help from Wesley Matthews and will likely need it. Batum can make this match up harder by making Durant guard him at the other end. He took 12 shots against the Timberwolves so should try and look to score again in this one. Durant is in such form though, he is not just a danger to put the ball in the basket as his near triple double last game showed.

Serge Ibaka vs LaMarcus Aldridge

While everyone has been raving about Kevin Durant since Westbrook went down, Ibaka deserves a lot of credit for the role he has played for the Thunder during this time. He is shooting around 60% from the floor and scoring nearly 20 points a game. Add in the 3 blocks and double digit rebounds and you can see his value to this team. He is going to need near those numbers if the Thunder want the win and he is going to have to try and curtail the influence of Aldridge. You won’t stop Aldridge in this one, but you can make it tough for him and that is what Ibaka and the Thunder will have to try and do.

Reggie Jackson vs Damian Lillard

Before these two face off against each other in the NBA Skills Challenge, they must first go head to head in this matchup. Lillard is coming off a tough game against Ricky Rubio where he struggled with his shot on his way to just 14 points – well below his season average. The difference was made up by rookie CJ McCollum who will get some decent minutes in this one too. Reggie Jackson continues to shine and seems to become more mature and poised every game he plays. Rarely one to step away from a challenge, he is going to have to work hard to fight around the screens to ensure a tough night for Lillard.

Prediction:

Flip a coin in this one. The past 3 encounters this season have all been barn burners and this one will be the same. These two teams match up very well and are exciting to watch. The Thunder are away and while they are a very good road team, playing in Portland is very tough. I think that the Thunder might be able to scrape through with a win though in a game where both sides get up and down the floor and put points on the board. Thunder 110, Blazers 107.

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