What have you done for me lately? If you are the Oklahoma City Thunder, you should go confidently into your first round match-up with the Portland Trailblazers. The Thunder just finished a regular season in which they swept the season series against division rival Portland, 4-0. But just as the slogan says about the postseason: it’s a new season.
The Portland team the Thunder will face in the playoffs will not be the same Portland team they faced in the regular season. The season-ending injury to Jusuf Nurkic late in the season wipes away a source of familiarity the Thunder are used to seeing from Portland. The entire dynamic of this series changed the minute Nurkic went down in the 73rd game of the season. Logic would have you think this benefits Oklahoma City. But in a weird way, that dynamic may be slanted more towards Portland.
The Thunder swept the season series against Portland in part because they matched up so well with them. Russell Westbrook can play Damian Lillard to, at worst, a draw. CJ McCollum has a bit of a feast or famine thing going when he faces the Thunder. And Nurkic is one of the few centers in the league that plays similar to Steven Adams. Continue reading First Round Preview: Thunder vs. Trailblazers