The Oklahoma City Thunder were able to use a strong second-half adjustment in Miami to down the Heat on Wednesday night. This salvaged a four-game road trip, which got off to a rocky start before the Thunder rattled off two in a road to end the excursion 2-2.
Now, returning to Bricktown for the first time in a week, the Thunder will face a maturity test as they play host to the Portland Trailblazers.
It is always hard to handle a back-to-back, especially with travel involved, but then you wake up and realize you have to play the lowly Trailblazers, who sit just 10-26 and will not provide any artificial sweetener packets to the Thunder's coffee.
This is a TCB game; like Elvis' band, you just have to take care of business and keep losing teams losing, and playing a losing team does not bring the same juice as getting up for a top opponent.
The OKC Thunder will face a maturity test against the Portland Trailblazers.
It is hard to get up for this game, but this is the burden of being a good team. Any stumbles or falls, and the sky appears to be falling when you are taking on lesser opponents. On the flip side, beating a team like Portland does not exactly muster a slap on the back from many.
The Thunder, who sit at 25-11, have a chance to claim the top spot in the Western Conference with a win tonight against the Blazers. Oklahoma City has protected their home court to the tune of a 14-5 record.
In this game, Portland has listed former number-one overall pick DeAndre Ayton as doubtful (knee), which would change the dynamic of this game for rookie center Chet Holmgren. The Trailblazers are already down Robert Williams III (knee) this season.
Jabari Walker (knee) is tabbed as questionable, while former Thunder big man Moses Brown is out with a wrist injury.
The Oklahoma City Thunder have a fully healthy roster, as Davis Bertans (illness) has been removed from the injury report after missing the last two tilts with a bug. Keyontae Johnson has been upgraded to available (Two-way), but OKC recalled Ousmane Dieng (G League) following the Heat game.
With no one on the injury report for the Thunder, Oklahoma City will have to tab three players as healthy inactive 30 minutes before tip-off.
UPDATE: The Thunder have made Aleksej Pokusevski, Olivier Sarr, and Davis Bertans.
This young Thunder team has to create their own juice against Portland and come away with a win, Building on their second-half defensive turnaround from last night.