Tag Archives: Portland

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers preview (Game 2 of 82)

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  • When: Thursday, 30 October 2014 at 9:30 PM CST
  • Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA

The Oklahoma City Thunder played great for the first 40 minutes of the night against Portland. Russell Westbrook was going all SuperNova on the Trailblazers, Lance Thomas (LANCE THOMAS!) was doing his best Kenneth Faried impression, and the defense was clamping down on the Portland shooters. Then the 4th quarter started. The defense lost its discipline, the role players started playing like role players, and Russell Westbrook, who was on the bench to begin the quarter, couldn’t bring the Thunder back with the Portland defense keying in on him. With all the odds that were stacked against the Thunder, this did feel like a bit of a moral victory. A loss was expected, but to have a 2 point lead heading into the 4th quarter, and then completely fall apart, was a bit disappointing. But as the venerable Swizz Beatz would say, “On to the next one.”

The Los Angeles Clippers open up their season in the same place and against the same team where it ended last season. The Thunder defeated the Clippers in 6 games in the 2nd round of last season’s playoffs. In what is quickly becoming a budding rivalry in the league, the Clippers are trying to get to where the Thunder have been. The teams split their regular season meetings last year, with each team winning one game on the other’s court.

The Opponent

griffin barnes jordan paul redick clippers

The Clippers finished last season 57-25, good for 3rd in the Western Conference. They defeated the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs as the series went the distance. They then lost to the Thunder in 6 games in the second round. The Clippers had the highest offensive rating in the league last season (112.1), and bring back most of the core from the previous year. Leading the charge is one of the best players in the league, Chris Paul. He led the league in assists per game (10.7) and steals per game (2.5). Joining Paul in the backcourt is sharp shooter JJ Redick who shot nearly 40% from 3-point territory last season. Up front, MVP candidate Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan continue to cause havoc with their athleticism and size. The Clippers sport one of the better benches in the league, which features 2-time 6th Man of the Year award winner Jamal Crawford, Jordan Farmar, and stretch center Spencer Hawes.

Probable Starting Line-ups

Los Angeles Clippers

  • PG – Chris Paul
  • SG – JJ Redick
  • SF – Matt Barnes
  • PF – Blake Griffin
  • C – DeAndre Jordan

Oklahoma City Thunder

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

3 Keys to the Game

1. Perimeter Defense – Much like the Portland game, one of the keys to holding a high scoring offense in check is guarding the 3-point line. The Thunder did a good job of that for 3 quarters, but got undisciplined in the 4th quarter and paid a costly price. The Clippers have 6 players who shot at least 34% from deep last season. The perimeter defenders (especially Andre Roberson and Perry Jones) need to do a better job of staying with the shooters and not following the ball so much.

2. A little help – I don’t know if he is out of shape, hurt, or trying to do too much, but Ibaka did not look like himself last night. He was pump-faking and trying to create, which led to his team high 5 turnovers. He was hesitating on his outside shot, which is unlike him, and shot only 4/11. He may just be out of sync due to missing most of training camp. Hopefully, its something he can work through and correct as soon as possible. Perry Jones, after two great preseason games, looked very lost out there in the starting line-up. He shot 1-9 from the field and was spun around a couple times on the defensive end. Roberson was okay, but the Thunder may still need more from him, even if its as a slasher. You know the team is struggling a bit when Lance Thomas is the 2nd leading scorer on the team with 14 points. Westbrook will need more help this game. Speaking of Westbrook…

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Clippers

3. Paul vs. Westbrook – Are there any more contenders for best point guard in the game? Maybe a healthy Derrick Rose, but for the most part, I think not. Last season’s dual was won by Westbrook in dominating fashion. Round 2 will likely be as entertaining.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Sacramento Kings preview (Game 77 of 82)

jackson thomas acy thunder kings

  • When: Tuesday, 08 April 2014 at 9:00 PM CST
  • Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA

Two weeks ago, it appeared that the Thunder would battle the San Antonio Spurs for Western Conference supremacy at best or stroll into the 2 seed at worst. Now, with losses in 3 of their last 4 games, the Thunder find themselves in an all-out sprint with the Los Angeles Clippers for the number 2 seed in the conference. The Clippers are just a game back in the standings by virtue of having played two more games (and consequently, having two more losses) than the Thunder.

The Thunder have a bad habit of battling complacency in games that aren’t of much import to them, and then turning it on in games they deem important (Miami, San Antonio, Clippers, Portland). These last 6 games will be a great test to see if the team is mentally “there” heading into the playoffs.

This will be the fourth and final meeting of the year between the Kings and Thunder. The Thunder have won each the 3 previous meetings this season by an average of 10 points, but only beat the Kings by 2 when they played in Sacramento early in the season.

The Opponent

cousins mclemore kings

The Kings currently sit at 27-50, and are looking towards next season. In hand, they already have 2 important pieces as the team moves forward. Ben McLemore is still finding his way in the NBA in this, his rookie season. DeMarcus Cousins, though, is showing everyone what his combination of skill and athleticism, along with finally showing signs of maturity, can lead to. And what it’s led to is a player that leads his team in scoring (22.3), rebounding (11.6), steals (1.5), and blocks (1.3). Unfortunately, the rest of the team is not very good. Rudy Gay gives you about 20 points of game, but is inefficient and gives you little else in the form of defense or playmaking. Isaiah Thomas does a good job of attacking the teeth of the defense, but is probably out for the rest of the season with a quad injury.

Probable Starting Line-Ups

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Ray McCallum
  • SG – Ben McLemore
  • SF – Rudy Gay
  • PF – Reggie Evans
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Reggie Jackson
  • SG – Andre Roberson
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Steven Adams

3 Keys to the Game

1. Trap Game Potential – With the Clippers game on tap for tomorrow, this game has trap game written all over it. I’m pretty sure the Thunder know what’s at stake, and what they have to do to maintain their seeding.

2. DeMarcus Cousins – With Isaiah Thomas out, this is the only player the Thunder really have to fear on the Kings. Steven Adams did a good job defending Cousins the last time they played, but will have to stay away from the fouls.

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3. Rebounding – Cousins, Evans, and Jason Thompson all have a knack for getting to rebounds. If there is one way the Kings can hang around in this game, its by grabbing offensive rebounds and extending possessions.

Sacramento Kings vs. Oklahoma City Thunder preview (Game 81 of 82)

turnovers

Today’s game day preview is brought to you by the letter W and the number 1. The magic number for the Oklahoma City Thunder to clinch the number 1 spot in the Western Conference is one. A Thunder win (W) or a San Antonio Spurs loss will get us there. Considering the Thunder game is on before the Spurs game, we’ll hopefully know if the Thunder have clinched so that Spurs coach Gregg Popovich can make a decision whether to rest his starters or not.

It would be the first No. 1 seed in the Thunder’s history and would put a rousing exclamation point on a season that began in such disarray with the James Harden trade. It would be an assertion of the hard work and dedication that the Thunder place on “getting better.” When a top player on a team leaves, others have to step up. And that’s what all the Thunder players have done. From Kevin Durant on down to Hasheem Thabeet, every player in the rotation has improved in some facet of his game.

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But let’s not count our chickens before they hatch just yet. The Thunder still have a game to play and must win it to ensure that the No.1 seed doesn’t come down to the final game of the season. The Sacramento Kings come into the game having lost 6 of their last 7 games. It’s been a bumpy ride for the Kings and their fans this entire season, as they have had to handle immature players, internal strife, and insecurities about whether the team will be playing in Sacramento or Seattle next season. Luckily for the Kings, the 16th technical that DeMarcus Cousins received in their last game was rescinded, and he’ll be able to play in the game tonight. The Thunder have won both games against the Kings this season, and look to sweep their Pacific division rivals in Oklahoma City.

Probable Starting Lineup

Sacramento Kings

  • PG – Isaiah Thomas
  • SG – Tyreke Evans
  • SF – John Salmons
  • PF – Jason Thompson
  • C – DeMarcus Cousins

Oklahoma City Thunder

  • PG – Russell Westbrook
  • SG – Thabo Sefolosha
  • SF – Kevin Durant
  • PF – Serge Ibaka
  • C – Hasheem Thabeet

3 Keys to the Game

1. Playoff Spoilers – There’s nothing better for a team out of the playoff race than to ruin a playoff team’s night. The Kings know the Thunder are playing for something. This will be akin to a playoff game for Sacramento. The Thunder need not give this young team any inklings of hope to turn this into a game.

kd kings

2. Turnovers – Young teams feast on turnovers. It’s the life blood that keeps them in games. The Kings have the ability to turn a live ball turnover on one side of the court into a fast break score on the other in the blink of an eye. Protecting the ball will be key to limiting the Kings’ offensive  opportunities.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Oklahoma City Thunder

3. Hasheem – He did a good job on JJ Hickson in the Portland game, but Cousins is a different type of player. He has a vast skill set with the ability to hit 20 footers consistently or post up in the paint. He should be consistently averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds, but is derailed most of the time by his immaturity and frustration. Hasheem will have his hands full tonight and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nick Collison get his fair share of minutes.

Thunder Rumblings – Week In Review (Jan 2 – 8)

Oklahoma CityThunder: Week in Review (Jan 2nd – Jan 8th

Record for the week – 3-2

Overall record – 8-2 

Games played: 

Jan 2nd (@ Dallas)

After starting the season winning their first 5 games, the Thunder were looking to stay on pace with the Miami Heat to remain the only unbeatens in the league. This was the 4th meeting between these two teams within a 2 week period, and started to take on the feel of a playoff series. With the Mavs looking to get their season on track, the Thunder came out flat and ultimately lost the game 100 – 87. The Mavs bench dominated the Thunder’s, outscoring them 47-25. The only good news of the night came with the fact thatMiami also lost their first game, and lost it, chronologically speaking, before the Thunder game was over.

 Jan 3rd (vs.Portland)

Looking to get back on track after their first loss of the season, the Thunder went back home to face division rival Portland. With starting SG Thabo Sefolosha out with an injured foot and flu-like symptoms, 6th man of the year candidate James Harden was inserted into the starting lineup. The teams played pretty evenly in the first half, with the Thunder taking a 2 point lead into halftime. Behind the great play of Lamarcus Aldridge and Kevin Durant’s shooting struggles,Portland took over in the second half and won the game 103 – 93. With Harden starting, the bench scored an anemic 14 points and could not muster much when they were in the game.

 Jan 6th (vs.Houston)

Looking to get back on the winning track, the Thunder took on the Houston Rockets, who were 0-4 on their previous road games. With Thabo Sefolosha returning to the lineup, the rotation normalized and the Thunder jumped out of the gate to finish the 1st quarter up by 10 and never looked back, eventually winning 109 – 94. The starters rested in the 4th quarter, and every player that was active played.

 Jan 7th (@ Houston)

If games were played purely on paper, then this game wasn’t worth playing. The Thunder had beat the team by 15 on the previous night. The only difference was the locale. Well, the Rockets came out and gave the Thunder a good game, matching them bucket for bucket for much of it until late in the 4th quarter. The Thunder got a couple timely stops late in the game and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook worked the two man game in the 4th to perfection with Durant scoring the Thunder’s last 13 points. The Thunder escaped with a 3 point victory 98 – 95. The only blemish in the game was the loss of back up PG Eric Maynor to a torn ACL in the 4th quarter.

 Jan 8th (vs.San Antonio)

The dreaded 3rd game in as many nights. The strange thing is that every team that has played a back to back to back, has won the 3rd game. So why should the Thunder be any different? While the first half stayed pretty close, the 3rd quarter belonged to the Thunder who blew the lid off the game, outscoring the Spurs 37-21 in the quarter. The Thunder had a 22 point lead heading into the 4th quarter and the starters sat for the entire period. Rookie Reggie Jackson saw his first extended action of the season, replacing the injured Eric Maynor as the Thunder’s backup PG, and scored 11 points on 4-9 shooting with 4 assists. 

My Takes: 

  • The loss of Eric Maynor could prove to be big. If you’re are looking at it, strictly, from a statistical point of view, then Maynor’s 4 points and 2 assists per game may seem inconsequential. But from a game manager point of view, his loss could have major ramifications on the Thunder’s bench play. Maynor set the tone on the 2nd unit, and provided a change of pace to the starters whenever necessary. There will be games where this aspect of what he brought to the table will be sorely missed. Here’s to sending a get well wish to Eric Maynor.
  • Its amazing how the return of a defensive minded SG could have such a positive effect on the offense. In the two losses, the offense seemed out of sync with the loss of Sefolosha. The players, especially Durant and Westbrook, seemed unsure of themselves and the bench suffered with Harden’s insertion into the starting line-up. Here’s to Scott Brooks not messing with the lineup unless he has to.
  • Durant seems to be efficiently scoring again and Westbrook seems to be returning back to form after starting the season in a bit of a funk. Here’s to realizing that this is a weird season, and players (even superstars) will probably have more ups and downs than an oscillating wave. 

Player of the Week: 

While Durant and Westbrook both struggled a bit in the beginning of the week, James Harden remained consistent throughout the week, averaging 19.5 points on 51% shooting from the field and 43% shooting from 3 point land, while contributing 3.8 boards, 3.8 assists, and 1.3 steals. If the Bearded One continues this, I don’t just see a 6th Man of the Year award in his future, but also an All Star nomiation.