Thunder-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 12, 2013
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have taken their high-scoring act on the road, where they'll mostly spend the rest of January. The Portland Trail Blazers, though, have been pretty stingy at home recently. Oklahoma City looks to end Portland's nine-game home winning streak by earning a fifth straight victory in the series Sunday night. The Thunder (28-8) rank near the top of the league averaging 105.7 points and improved to 23-0 when scoring more than 100 with Friday's 116-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. Durant, among the league leaders at 28.5 points per game, finished with a season-high 42 for Oklahoma City, which is averaging 110.8 points while winning three of four on the road. Durant is shooting 57.7 percent from the field in six games this month. "He's a special player," said reserve Kevin Martin, who is 7 of 13 from 3-point range over the last two games. "He's the heart of our team and we just want to follow his lead. To see your superstar bring intensity like that, everybody else better bring it also." Though the Thunder, who also got 27 points and 10 assists from Russell Westbrook on Friday, are mostly known for their offensive attack, their defense has led to a lot of that production. They rank among the league's best in points off turnovers (17.9 per game) and fast break points (16.7). "We pride ourselves on defense and as long as we have our defensive mindset, we're going to always be a team that's going to compete for wins," said coach Scott Brooks, whose team has held its last five opponents to 42.2 percent from the field. Friday began a stretch of Oklahoma City playing nine of 10 games on the road, including a season-high six-game trip Jan. 18-27. Brooks expects his team to bring the same effort no matter where the games are played, though. "They work hard every day," he said. "They work for everything they get. Nothing is ever given to them and they're still going to keep improving." The Blazers seem prepared to handle the Thunder's offensive attack. They're allowing an average of 92.1 points over their last nine home games, giving up more than 94 only once. The last six visitors have shot 26.7 percent from beyond the arc, but Oklahoma City leads the Western Conference in 3-point shooting at 39.6 percent. Portland (20-16) is in the midst of its longest home winning streak since a 12-game run during the 2008-09 season, but it had an overall four-game win streak snapped with Friday's 103-97 loss at Golden State. Damian Lillard scored a career-high 37 points and hit 7 of 12 3-pointers, though his teammates were 8 for 31 as the Blazers set a team record for 3s attempted. They rank among the league's worst in field-goal shooting at 43.6 percent after hitting a combined 37.8 over the last two games. "We had a lot of shots at the rim and missed some of those opportunities," coach Terry Stotts said. "You have those nights." LaMarcus Aldridge has had his share of those nights, shooting a career-worst 45.9 percent. He scored a season-low seven points Friday while hitting 3 of 14 from the field, and he's shooting 36.7 percent over his last five games. Aldridge shot 8 of 22 and scored 22 points in Portland's 106-92 loss at Oklahoma City in the most recent meeting Nov. 2. Durant was held to 23 points but had season highs of 17 rebounds and seven assists. Westbrook scored 32 and is averaging 30.0 during the Thunder's four-game win streak in the series.
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