Thunder-Trail Blazers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated February 05, 2012
Following an ugly defensive effort on the road their last time out, the Oklahoma City Thunder won't have it any easier against the Portland Trail Blazers, who continue to dominate at the Rose Garden. The Trail Blazers try to win their sixth straight at home Monday night when they take on the Thunder. Oklahoma City has the league's best record largely thanks to an impressive 9-4 road mark. However, the Thunder (18-5) weren't nearly as sharp in opening a five-game trip with a 107-96 loss at San Antonio on Saturday, falling behind by 24 points in the third quarter. Kevin Durant had 22 points and 11 rebounds while Russell Westbrook added 18 points, six boards and six assists. The Spurs went 12 of 23 from 3-point range and Oklahoma City had no answer for Tony Parker, who scored 42 points. "It's all about stopping the basketball and we didn't do a good job of that," coach Scott Brooks said. "Tony Parker and their 3's. We had no answer for either of them." Despite winning three of their last five road games, the Thunder's past four hosts are 41 of 95 (43.2 percent) beyond the arc while averaging 103.5 points. Oklahoma City will try to get its defense back on track during the remainder of this trip, which continues with games on back-to-back nights against the Trail Blazers and Golden State. The Thunder's recent struggles to defend the 3 could be a bad sign heading into Portland, where the Trail Blazers are coming off their own hot shooting night from long distance. Portland (14-10) improved to 11-1 at home with a 117-97 win over Denver on Saturday. It went 15 of 33 beyond the arc, with Nicolas Batum hitting 9 of 15 to finish with a career-high 33 points. Batum said he was forced to shoot from distance because of an injured knee, which kept him sidelined the previous two games. "When I came in tonight I was thinking, 'Don't hurt my knee, don't be crazy tonight,'" he said. "I tried to drive to the basket. I could not dunk, I could not even make a layup. All I could do is shoot from the 3-point line." The Blazers shot 53.5 percent and LaMarcus Aldridge gave Batum plenty of help, scoring 29 points on 13 of 18 shooting. Portland is averaging 105.8 points at the Rose Garden this season while winning the last five by an average of 25.4 points. Despite that strong play at home, overall Portland has alternated wins and losses its last seven games. It closes a three-game homestand Wednesday against Houston before heading on the road for two. "With us dropping some games on the road, (we want to) continue to try and defend home court, especially during this stretch of games," coach Nate McMillan told the Blazers' official website. "We've got some top teams coming in here and another division game coming up, so all games are important." The Blazers won 103-93 in Oklahoma City on Jan. 3 - the Thunder's lone home loss in 10 games this season. Aldridge had 30 points while Durant missed 18 of 26 shots and finished with 19. Durant is shooting 32.4 percent overall and 7 of 30 beyond the arc in his last three games against the Blazers.
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