Tag Archives: Northwest division

NTTB Podcast (Episode 13) – Rated PG

IMG_4109On Episode 13 of the NTTB podcast, we discuss the following topics:

  • Westbrook signs extension…..with Jordan
  • Rob Hennigan returns to the Thunder front office
  • Player rankings
  • Twitter Questions
  • Statement jerseys
  • Northwest division preview

Intro/Outro music provided by OSC Productions

Thank you for listening. We will be doing a podcast once a week. If you have any Thunder or NBA related questions, make sure you hit us up on Twitter (@alexroig_NTTB or @Montero_A13).

We are on ITunes under the NTTB Podcast. Make sure you leave us a 5-star review if you can. As always, Thunder Up!

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Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Utah Jazz preview (Game 16 of 82)

Jackson Adams thomas Thunder hayward jazz

  • When: Wednesday, 26 November 2014 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

This latest stretch for the Oklahoma City Thunder has been a lot like the life of a career convict. Go to jail, get out, and do the same things to get put back in. For the Thunder, its been fall behind early, fight like hell to get back in the game, and eventually lose a close one at the end due to lack of offensive execution/weaponry. Well, this may be the final game for this Reggie Jackson-led group to win a game. With Russell Westbrook, and possibly Kevin Durant, available for Friday’s game against the New York Knicks, the heavy cavalry may be on its way with reinforcements.

This will be the second meeting of the year between these Northwest Division rivals. The Jazz beat the Thunder 98-81 in Salt Lake City over a week ago. The Thunder jumped out early in that game, leading 23-14 after the first quarter. But eventually, the Jazz wore out the Thunder in the next 3 quarters, using their depth and their size inside.

The Opponent

Oklahoma City Thunder v Utah Jazz

The Jazz come into the game with a 5-10 record, riding a 3 game losing streak in tonight’s game. Their last win came against the Thunder. The Jazz remind me of the young Thunder teams from years past, in that its a bunch of young guys coming up together and learning as a collective. Some of the more veteran Jazz players (and by veteran, I mean 3 years in the league or more) are just now starting to enter their primes and their games are starting to blossom. Gordon Hayward is slowly becoming that go-to scorer, Derrick Favors is a double-double waiting to happen, and Alec Burks seems to finally have found his niche in the league. Leading the charge is 2nd year point guard Trey Burke who is still taking his lumps, but continues to impress as a playmaker and defender. In the middle, Enes Kanter does a good job of controlling the paint and making the most of his opportunities. Off the bench, the Jazz are extremely young, but extremely flexible. They can trot out Rudy Gobert, Dante Exum (who can play all the wing positions, to include point guard), and Trevor Booker and Joe Ingles (combo forwards who aren’t afraid to let it fly from deep).

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Alec Burks
  • SF – Gordon Hayward
  • PF – Derrick Favors
  • C – Enes Kanter

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Lance Thomas
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – The last time the Thunder met Utah, the Jazz outrebounded the Thunder 55-44. The Thunder actually won the first quarter rebounding battle 12-11, which was also the only quarter they won scoring-wise. The Thunder bigs, especially Steven Adams, have to do a better job of not only boxing out Kanter and Favors, but also trying to get offensive rebounds of their own. The Thunder grabbed 3 offensive rebounds in that first quarter which led to 3 extra points.

2. Staying in front of Trey Burke – The Thunder did a poor job of staying in front of Jazz guards in the last game. They drove into the lane at will and often found open targets that made the Thunder pay. The Thunder bigs have to do a better job of hedging into to help out guards on the PnR’s.

jackson thunder burks jazz

3. Reggie Jackson – This may be the final game that Jackson plays that the main ball-handler/offensive threat on the team. It’s been a mixed bag, but I also think that Reggie has proven himself in this time. He may not be an elite player, but he is very good and can put up some Westbrook-like numbers.

As always, thank you for the visit to my site, and I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Denver Nuggets preview (Game 13 of 82)

ibaka adams faried thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 19 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

The last time the panic alarm was this loud in Thunder Nation was after the 2nd game of the season. The Thunder had just lost 2 close games on the road, and to top it off, they lost their All-Star point guard to a broken hand. The roster was down to 8 healthy players, none of which had ever been tasked with leading a team to battle. The Thunder needed a respite and they needed it fast. Enter the Denver Nuggets. The Thunder got off to a big lead and still had the fortitude to win a close game when Denver got hot in the 4th quarter. From there, the panic dampened as the Thunder started getting some players back from injury and actually won a couple more games. But with the Thunder staring at a 3-9 record, the offense struggling, and their superstar duo probably not coming back for at least another 2 weeks, the panic alarm is once again wailing.

The Opponent

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets come into the game with a 3-7 record. They won their first game, and then proceeded to lose their next 6, before finally winning the last 2 of 3, including a road victory in Cleveland in their last game. The Nuggets are middle of the pack when it comes to scoring (101.5 ppg), but give up the 4th most points in the league (107.1 ppg). Their rebounding is one of their strengths and it fuels their transition game. Ty Lawson is one of the better pace pushers in the league, using his speed to beat defenders up the court and causing havoc in the paint. On the perimeter, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler have had their troubles being consistent. Up front, the big man rotation of Kenneth Faried, Timofey Mozgov, and JJ Hickson provides plenty of energy in going after rebounds and hustling defensively. The Nuggets are one of the deepest teams in the league, usually going at least 12 deeep into the rotation. The bench players that receive most time are Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, JaVale McGee, Alonzo Gee, and Nate Robinson.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Arron Afflalo
  • SF – Wilson Chandler
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Consistency – The Thunder have held leads in the last few games they have lost. Sometimes those leads even balloned up into the double digits. But the Thunder have failed to capitalize on those leads due to a stagnant offense. When the Thunder play their best is when they are passing and moving. As soon as the offense becomes iso-oriented, the Thunder struggle due to having their iso MVPs on the bench in street clothes. The Thunder can’t stop playing their current brand of basketball as soon as they see a little light at the end of the tunnel. They aren’t good enough to go off the cuff. They need to stick to their script.

2. Rebounding – I feel like I’ve written this in the last few pre-game reports as a key to the game, but the proof is in the pudding. In their last 3 games (all losses), the Thunder have been outrebounded by an average of 11 rebounds and have allowed the opponent to grab an average of 16 offensive rebounds. While I like the new found perimeter aggressiveness of Nick Collison and Serge Ibaka, I feel like them being so far from the basket takes away from their opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. On the defensive end, Steven Adams needs to play bigger and occupy more space to grab more defensive boards.

Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Reggie Jackson – The offense goes as he does. If he is masterfully setting up his teammates and controlling the flow of the game, the Thunder usually are usually in control and rolling. As soon as he goes off script, the Thunder tend to struggle. I don’t necessarily fault Jackson. This is his first foray as the focal point of the offense, and he is still adjusting to being shadowed by at least one other defender.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz preview (Game 12 of 82)

hayward burke lamb jackson thunder jazz

  • When: Tuesday, 18 November 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

At the beginning of the season, you would’ve needed an alternate universe to imagine a scenario where the Utah Jazz would have a better record than the Oklahoma City Thunder through 11 games. But, alas, through a series of unfortunate events, here we stand today. The Thunder are battling and doing whatever necessary to stay in games. Whether it’s muddying up the game or getting hot at the right time, the Thunder have been competitive in every game this season, sans one. Unfortunately, staying in the game is completely different than actually winning the game. And that is where the Thunder are struggling right now. If coffee is for closers, then the only one on the team even sniffing a Starbucks gift card is Reggie Jackson. The Thunder have to start finding a way to finish out these close games.

This is the first of 4 meetings between these Northwest Division opponents. The Thunder won 3 of 4 meetings with the Jazz last season, winning by an average of 18.3 points. Also, not that it means much, but the Thunder defeated the Jazz 88-82 in the preseason.

The Opponent

Alec Burks , Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors

The Jazz come into the game with a 4-7 record. They rank in the bottom third of the league in points scored, points allowed, rebounds, and defensive rating. Surprisingly, though, they rank in the top ten in offensive rating. The Jazz are in the second phase of their rebuild. A lot of their young players from the past few seasons are either coming up on extension or have already signed their first extension. At this point, improvements and jumps will probably be expected. Point guard Trey Burke leads the Jazz’s attack. While still young, Burke has shown a knack for breaking down defenses and causing havoc in the lane. His backcourt mate, Alec Burks has started to show the consistency that has been missing in his first 3 seasons. Gordon Hayward, who signed a max deal this offseason, is settling into his role as the leader of the team. Averaging 19.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.3 steals per game, Hayward is quickly becoming one of the better all around players in the game. Up front, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter provide the Jazz with a big, mobile front line they hope will one day mimic the front line of Memphis. Off the bench, the Jazz play the rookie trio (Dante Exum, Rodney Hood, and Joe Ingles), along with Rudy Gobert and Trevor Booker.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Trey Burke
  • SG – Alec Burks
  • SF – Gordon Hayward
  • PF – Derrick Favors
  • C – Enes Kanter

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Jeremy Lamb
  • SF – Andre Roberson
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Control the boards – The Jazz are a lot like the Detroit Pistons in that they aren’t very efficient at shooting, but have the necessary bigs to grab offensive boards.  Kanter, Favors, and Gobert are extremely active up front, and can gobble up rebounds if given the opportunity.

2. Turnovers and Transition – The Jazz play at the second slowest pace in the league and try to limit their turnovers. But with such a young roster, they still average about 14 per game. If the Thunder can force a few more turnovers and get the Jazz running, they may exploit a style of play the Jazz aren’t comfortable with.

exum hood jazz

3. Take advantage of the rookies – The Jazz play their three rookies at least 15 minutes a game. If the Thunder want to take advantage of the experience factor, this would be the time to impose their will.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trailblazers preview (Game 1 of 82)

westbrook lillard thunder trailblazers

  • When: Wednesday, 29 October 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

If there was ever a time for the entire world to go into hibernation for, ohh, I don’t know, maybe 6 weeks, this would be the time. The Oklahoma City Thunder will be strolling into Portland on Wednesday to open the season with 9 healthy players. The Thunder usually have a 10-player rotation in the regular season. They have 9 capable bodies, currently. The injury bug has hit the Thunder hard this preseason with Kevin Durant and Mitch McGary each suffering a broken foot, Anthony Morrow suffering a sprained MCL, Grant Jerrett still recovering from offseason ankle surgery, and Reggie Jackson (ankle) and Jeremy Lamb (back) each suffering injuries in the practice before the road trip. The only saving grace is that none of the injuries appear to be too serious.

The Thunder and Portland Trailblazers split the season series last year 2-2. The Northwest division rivals played four close games, with all of them being decided in the fourth quarter and by single digits. The average margin of victory in each of the contests was 5.5 points.

The Opponent

trailblazers lopez matthews lillard aldridge

The Trailblazer start  their season at home with visions of improving upon the season they had last year. Portland finished 54-28, good for 5th in their West. They defeated the Houston Rockets in 6 games in the first round and lost to the eventual champs in the second round in 5 games. Their entire core is back, and they picked up some veteran free agents for the bench. The only player missing who logged significant minutes last season is Mo Williams, who signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the offseason. With such comfort and continuity, look for Portland to once again be one of the top offenses in the league. Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews are one of the top two-way backcourts in the league. Lillard and power forward LaMarcus Aldridge are quickly becoming one of the best duos in the league. On the perimeter, small forward Nic Batum is their best defender and someone capable of knocking down open jumpers. In the middle, Robin Lopez does a great job of keeping possessions alive with his energy. The bench, which was a weakness last season, has been shored up by veteran free agents Steve Blake and Chris Kaman. CJ McCollum and Thomas Robinson will also play a big role off the bench.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Portland Trailblazers

  • PG – Damian Lillard
  • SG – Wesley Matthews
  • SF – Nic Batum
  • PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • C – Robin Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Perry Jones
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Foul Trouble – With only four warm bodies to come off the bench, the Thunder need to be very wary of their fouls. Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins both have a propensity for picking up quick fouls, and that would be disastrous against a team with skilled bigs like Portland. On the perimeter, the depth is even worse. Sebastian Telfair is the only guard available for the Thunder off the bench.

collison adams aldridge trailblazers thunder

2. Outside shooting – Oklahoma City’s top 3 perimeter shooters (Durant, Morrow, and Jackson) are out. The Trailblazers will be packing the paint, so making outside shots consistently will be necessary to win the game. All eyes will be on Russell Westbrook, which will leave Roberson, Jones, and Ibaka open from the perimeter. They have to knock down shots for the Thunder to even be in contention to win this game.

3. Westbrook – The great unknown. The fun unknown. We’ve always wondered what a team that solely featured Russell Westbrook would look like. Well, the Westbrook experience is taking off and we bought the Fast Pass. Let’s go!

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets preview (Preseason Game 1 of 7)

faried ibaka thunder nuggets

  • When: Wednesday, 08 October 2014 at 8:00 PM CST
  • Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

Finally. After eons of waiting, the time has arrived. Well, not really the real time. That would be reserved for 20 days from today. But real enough to follow a GameCast of the game on ESPN. Real enough to catch highlights on NBATV. And real enough to begin complaining about Scott Brooks and his lack of offensive imagination. The rest of the season for the Thunder begins today.

The Denver Nuggets come into the game having already played one preseason game. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 98-95 in Kobe Bryant’s first game in action since an injury riddled 203-14 campaign. The Thunder are set to face their Northwest Division rivals four times this season.

The Opponent

nuggets training camp

The Nuggets are looking to build off a season that saw four rotational players miss significant portions of the season due to significant knee injuries (Danilo Gallinari, Nate Robinson, JJ Hickson, and JaVale McGee). The Nuggets are two years removed from being the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference heading into the playoffs. That team featured a lot of the same players that are still on the roster. The offense is spearheaded by Ty Lawson. The prodigal son, Arron Afflalo, returns after getting traded back to the Nuggets in the offseason to bring them defensive stability on the perimeter. Up front, Kenneth Faried and Timofey Mozgov form an energetic duo that gets most of their points off rebounds and garbage baskets. Off the bench, the Nuggets will probably try to play their rookies Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic to get them some in-game experience.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Denver Nuggets

  • PG – Ty Lawson
  • SG – Randy Foye
  • SF – Arron Afflalo
  • PF – Kenneth Faried
  • C – Timofey Mozgov

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. SG battle – This preseason will be about deciding who will start at SG for the Thunder. Roberson seems to have the edge on Jeremy Lamb and Reggie Jackson, though. He started 16 games for the Thunder last season and outplayed Lamb in the Blue and White scrimmage.

roberson thunder

2. Young guys – Mitch McGary, Grant Jerrett, and Perry Jones should see some action this preseason.

3. Ball-movement – The talk about the offense coming into every season is always about the increase in ball-movement. Yet, anytime the going gets tough or when the game is on the line, the offense always reverts back to iso-ball.

BONUS – 4. Don’t get hurt – It’s the preseason. We are playing for June.

2014-15 NBA Season Preview: Northwest Divison

Northwest Division

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

westbrook ibaka durant jackson jones thunder

Last season: 59-23 (1st in the Northwest Division, 2nd in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Mitch McGary – Draft (No. 21 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Anthony Morrow – Free agent signing
  • Sebastian Telfair – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Thabo Sefolosha – Signed with the Atlanta Hawks
  • Caron Butler – Signed with the Detroit Pistons
  • Derek Fisher – Retired (Head coach of the New York Knicks)
  • Hasheem Thabeet – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – After years of relying on internal improvement/development, the Thunder finally threw their hat into the free agency fray. They failed in getting Pau Gasol or Mike Miller to OKC, but did get the deep-range threat they coveted in Anthony Morrow. If healthy, this team is one of the best in the league. Sporting the current MVP and another top 5 players in Westbrook, the Thunder should benefit from their more versatile additions. When it comes to a team like the Thunder, though, its all about May and June. With the team’s shortcomings in the playoffs with such a talented roster, might this be the year that coach Scott Brooks starts to feel the heat?

2014-15 will be successful if: The Thunder win the championship

Projected 2014-15 Record: 61-21

2. Portland Trailblazers

aldridge batum lopez matthews lillard trailblazers

Last season: 54-28 (2nd in the Northwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Game 5 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the San Antonio Spurs

Key Additions:

  • Steve Blake – Free agent signing
  • Chris Kaman – Free agent signing
  • James Southerland – Free agent signing

Key Departures:

  • Mo Williams – Signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Earl Watson – Unsigned

Season Preview – The Trailblazers basically bring back the same team as last season, but with a little bit more veteran presence. Chris Kaman and Steve Blake should help shore up some of the inexperience off the bench. With that said, the Blazers’ Achilles heel this season will be the same as last season’s: lack of bench production. Second year guard CJ Mccollum will be expected to fill the production provided by Mo Williams. They were lucky the injury bug didn’t bite that hard last season. They will need similar health next season to produce the same output.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Blazers make it to the Western Conference Finals

Projected 2014-15 Record: 52-30

3. Denver Nuggets

Indiana Pacers v Denver Nuggets

Last season: 36-46 (4th in the Northwest Division, 11th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Arron Afflalo – Obtained in a trade with the Orlando Magic
  • Gary Harris – Draft (No. 19 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Jusuf Nurkic – Draft (No. 16 in the 2014 NBA Draft)

Key Departures:

  • Evan Fournier – Traded to the Orlando Magic
  • Jan Vesely – Signed overseas
  • Anthony Randolph – Signed overseas
  • Aaron Brooks – Signed with the Chicago Bulls

Season Preview – I only wrote three names on the “Key Additions” section, but with half the team coming back from injury, you could easily add about 5 players to that section. Now, half the team is a bit of an exaggeration, but the players who are coming back are core members of the rotation. JaVale McGee, Danilo Galinari, JJ Hickson, and Nate Robinson all missed time last season with surgery necessitating injuries. With all those key players coming back and Kenneth Faried coming off a great showing in the FIBA World Cup, Denver becomes the wild card in the Western Conference. Two seasons ago, they were the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference with many of these players on the team. It may take Denver a bit to gel, but I could definitely see them being a nuisance come the second half of the season.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Nuggets make it to the playoffs

Projected 2014-15 Record: 40-42

4. Utah Jazz

burke hayward favors jazz

Last season: 25-57 (5th in the Northwest Division,  15th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Trevor Booker – Free agent signing
  • Dante Exum – Draft (No. 5 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Rodney Hood – Draft (No. 23 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Steve Novak – Obtained in a trade with the Toronto Raptors

Key Departures:

  • Richard Jefferson – Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
  • Marvin Williams – Signed with the Charlotte Hornets
  • Brandon Rush – Signed with the Golden State Warriors
  • Diante Garrett – Traded to the Toronto Raptors

Season Preview – The Jazz are probably at the midway point of their rebuild. Their young guys from 2-3 seasons ago are starting to come up for extensions and they have yet to show much fruit. They had to pay Gordon Hayward max money in order to keep him away from Charlotte. And their backcourt consists of a rookie (Exum) and a 2nd year player (Trey Burke). I think the Jazz take a step this season. Not necessarily a big one, but a 5-7 win improvement through the internal development of Hayward, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, and Trey Burke. Show improvement and the team probably stays the course. But, flounder again, and the team may be looking at a smaller rebuild for the future.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Jazz win 35 games

Projected 2014-15 Record: 31-51

5. Minnesota Timberwolves

"blg 04 wolves state fair"

Last season: 40-42 (3rd in the Northwest Division, 10th in the Western Conference)

Season ended: Last day of the regular season

Key Additions:

  • Anthony Bennett – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Zach Lavine – Draft (No. 13 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Glenn Robinson III – Draft (No. 40 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Andrew Wiggins – Obtained in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 1 in the 2014 NBA Draft)
  • Mo Williams – Free agent signing
  • Thaddeus Young – Obtained in a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers

Key Departures:

  • Kevin Love – Traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Luc Richard Mbah a Moute – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers
  • Alexey Shved – Traded to the Philadelphia 76ers

Season Preview – The Timberwolves seem to have a problem holding on to great power forwards. Kevin Garnett about seven years ago and Kevin Love this offseason. But they got a much better haul this time around for Love than they did for Garnett. Wiggins has franchise player potential and Bennett has match-up problems potential if he is healthy this season. Thaddeus Young is a good veteran stopgap at the forward spot, but is also young enough to grow with this group. I believe this team will surprise some people. Rubio is made to be a fast break point guard and now has the horses to let loose his talent. In the end though, this team is extremely young and will have plenty of growing pains this season. Luckily, they’ll also be exciting as hell.

2014-15 will be successful if: The Timberwolves’ young players show development throughout the season, and they still garner a Top 5 pick.

Projected 2014-15 Record: 30-52

Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trailblazers preview (Game 54 of 82)

durant batum thunder trailblazers

  • When: Tuesday, 11 February 2014 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR

The Oklahoma City Thunder find themselves in good footing heading into the All-Star break. They are 3.5 games up in the Western Conference and have gotten the tougher part of the schedule out of the way (since Dec. 27, the Thunder have either played back to backs or have had only one day off between games). Also, the Thunder have a certain somebody coming back after the All-Star break.

This will be the last regular season meeting between these two Northwest Division rivals. All 3 previous games have been decided in the 4th quarter, with Portland taking the first two and OKC taking that last meeting.

The Opponent

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Portland Trail Blazers

The Trailblazers are currently 36-15, which is good for 3rd in the Western Conference standings. After a torrid start to begin the season, the Blazers are only 5-6 in their last 11 games. Their biggest issue is defense, where they give up 103.5 ppg. Fortunately for them, they combat that by averaging 108 ppg, good for 1st in the league. They also lead the league in 3-point makes per game (9.4), while making them at a 38.1% clip. Their offense is an inside-out attack, usually starting with LaMarcus Aldridge on a post-up. There, Aldridge either uses his patented fade-away jumper or passes it to a myriad of shooters (Damian Lillard, Mo Williams, CJ McCollum, or Wesley Matthews). Up front, Robin Lopez causes havoc with his energy, especially on the offensive boards.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Portland Trailblazers

  • PG – Damian Lillard
  • SG – Wesley Matthews
  • SF – Nic Batum
  • PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • C – Robin Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding – A lot of Portland’s offense either comes through an Aldridge fadeaway or a 3-pointer. With so many perimeter shots, there’s bound to be plenty of rebounds for the taking. In their last three meetings against the Thunder, Aldridge and Lopez have amassed 21 offensive boards between them.

Serge Ibaka, Robin Lopez

2. Turnovers – In the two losses to Portland, the Thunder are averaging 11.5 turnovers per game. In the lone victory, only 7 turnovers. Now, 11.5 TO’s is below the Thunder’s season average, but if you give a jump shooting team ample opportunities to burn you, they eventually will. Also of note, Portland is a decent transition team.

3. Lamb – With Reggie moving over to the starting line-up, it seems as if Lamb has struggled in adjusting to being the No. 1 option on the second team. He’s had flashes of his early season effectiveness, but lately, there have been a lot of 1-8 and 2-10 games. With such a high scoring team, someone outside of Durant, Ibaka, and Jackson will have to step up.

Portland Trailblazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 31 of 82)

portland vs thunder

  • When: Tuesday, 31 December 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

Division rivalries are always fun because it’s like you are playing against your cousin. All the teams are, for the most part, close geographically and are guaranteed to play each other 4 times in a season. That makes for a sense of notoriety. But when you are the alpha dog in the division, it makes it even more interesting when a division rival comes out of nowhere to threaten your crown. The Oklahoma City Thunder are like Jay-Z and Kanye West. They are on the throne. And everyone else, including Tuesday’s opponent, the Portland Trailblazers, is watching the throne.

This will be the second meeting of the season between these two teams. The Trailblazers won the first game, 111-104, behind a strong 3rd quarter that saw them take an 11 point halftime deficit and convert it into a 3 point lead by the beginning of the 4th quarter. From there it was back and forth, with the Trailblazers coming up with enough stops to win the game. Kevin Durant finished with 33 points and Russell Westbrook had 21, but the two Thunder superstars were eclipsed by a seemingly unstoppable LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 38 points and 13 rebounds.

The Opponent

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Portland Trail Blazers

The Trailblazers come into the game with a 24-7 record, and are one of the real surprises in the league. They lead the league in team scoring, at 108.6 points per game, but struggle defensively, giving up an average of 102.6 points per game, good for 26th in the league. Portland came out guns blazing in their first 29 games, going 24-5, but have lost their last 2 games in dramatic fashion on game-winning shots from the opponent. The Portland attack is led by last season’s Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard, who is joined by Wesley Matthews, who has become a dead-eye 3-point shooter this season. Defensively, Nic Batum is one of the better SF in the league, and also gives the team some pop offensively. LaMarcus Aldridge has seemingly put it all together this season and is having a career year, averaging 23.4 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. And Robin Lopez does a great job of being their garbage man. The bench is good, and with so many shooters (Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright) it can be explosive at times.

Probable Starting Line-Up

Portland Trailblazers

  • PG – Damian Lillard
  • SG – Wesley Matthews
  • SF – Nic Batum
  • PF – LaMarcus Aldridge
  • C – Robin Lopez

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – The Trailblazers have 5 regular rotation players that shoot over 36% from 3-point territory. With an “inside to outside” offense, Portland is dependent on Aldridge drawing the defense into the paint, allowing the shooters to get open. The Thunder will have to defend Portland in the same fashion it defended Houston two nights back. The perimeter defenders will have to stay on the shooters and not get sucked in.

2. Rebounding – It will be extremely important that the Thunder bigs not allow Portland to gobble up offensive rebounds. In the last game, Lopez and Aldridge combined for 9 offensive rebounds that led to 12 extra points for Portland. Take away half of those, and it’s an entirely different game for the Thunder.

Oklahoma City Thunder v Portland Trail Blazers

3. Pace – As strange as it seems, the Trailblazers are the more half-courted oriented team between the two. Even though they lead the league in scoring, they work their offense from inside to out with Aldridge being the post presence. If the Thunder can push the pace, with Portland struggling on the defensive end, I could see the Thunder outlasting Portland, especially when they are on the second night of a back to back.

Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 65 of 82)

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

  • When: Wednesday, 13 March 2013 at 7:00 PM CST
  • Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

It’s getting to that point in the season where mostly every game carries some sort of importance, either for playoff seeding or draft lottery probabilities. The Oklahoma City Thunder are coming off a road loss to the San Antonio Spurs, where they had the opportunity to overtake the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference. The Utah Jazz, on the other hand, are on the opposite end of the playoff spectrum. The Jazz held onto the 7th seed in the West as recently as one week ago, but losses in 7 of their last 9 games has the Jazz looking up at the hard charging Los Angeles Lakers for the final playoff spot in the West. With that said, there are heavy playoff implications for both teams in this game.

This is the 3rd meeting of the season between these two Northwest division rivals. The Thunder easily won the first game at home, 106-94. In that game, Russell Westbrook nearly notched a quadruple double with 23 points, 13 rebounds, 8 assists, and 7 steals. Kevin Durant chipped in with 25 points and Kevin Martin added 19 points off the bench. In the 2nd meeting of the season, the Jazz basically flipped the score while playing in Salt Lake City, 109-94. In that game, the Jazz dominated the paint, with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap combining for 41 points and 17 rebounds (9 offensive).

Probable Starters

Utah Jazz

  • PG – Randy Foye
  • SG – Mo Williams
  • SF – DeMarre Carroll
  • PF – Paul Millsap
  • C – Al Jefferson

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Kendrick Perkins

3 Keys to the Game

Post Defense – It can’t be said enough against teams that have two functional big men how important it is to control the paint defensively. In the first game between these two teams, Jefferson and Millsap were held to 29 points on 12-29 FG shooting (41.4%). In the second game, a Thunder loss, the Jazz duo combined for 41 points on 19-36 FG shooting (52.8%). It’s up to Perkins, Ibaka, and Nick Collison to contain these two.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Utah Jazz

Defensive Rebounding – Related to the post defense, defensive rebounding is extremely key when dealing with the Jazz. The Jazz grabbed 21 and 16 offensive rebounds, respectively, in the two games against the Thunder. Offensive rebounds lead to extended offensive possessions and more shots for the opposition. The Jazz shot 17 and 19 more shots, respectively, than the Thunder in the two games they played against them.

durant carroll

Durant – The Jazz don’t really have any answers for guarding Durant. DeMarre Carroll will attempt to get physical with Durant, but will eventually succumb to foul trouble and Durant’s speed. And Durant is usually a horrible match-up for Gordon Hayward. I expect Durant to get at least 30 points in this game.