Trail Blazers-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 23, 2013
Facing a potential third straight loss, the Oklahoma City Thunder turned to their defense to bail them out against one of the league's worst teams. The Thunder might have a more difficult time trying to slip past a Portland Trail Blazers team that has built some momentum on its road trip. Oklahoma City will try to beat Portland for the sixth straight time and move within two games of the Western Conference lead on Sunday night. While they have one of the NBA's top scoring offenses, the Thunder (51-19) stepped up defensively after visiting Orlando took a stunning two-point lead with 7:29 remaining on Friday. Oklahoma City held the lowly Magic without a field goal over the final 2:26 on the way to a 97-89 home win that snapped its brief two-game skid. The Thunder have allowed 97.2 points per game on the season, but limited their opponents to just 89.5 on 38.7 percent shooting in their last two contests. "We had two tough losses ... I give our guys a lot of credit,'' Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said. "They picked themselves up and came into tonight with a good mindset. We got the win and we're moving on to the next game.'' Now the Thunder will try to clamp down on the Trail Blazers after holding them to just 87.5 points per game and 36.0 percent shooting in a pair of victories earlier this season. Russell Westbrook led the offense with 32 points on 13-of-24 shooting and Kevin Durant had 23, 17 rebounds and seven assists in a 106-92 win in Oklahoma City on Nov. 2. Durant, the league's leading scorer at 28.4 per game, also finished with 33 in an 87-83 victory at Portland on Jan. 13. Westbrook had 18 on 5-of-21 shooting in that meeting, but has averaged 29.2 while shooting 51.9 percent in his last five home games in this series. Although the Thunder rank near the top of the league in 3-point percentage (37.7), they've hit just 16 for 85 (18.8) from beyond the arc over their last four games. It may not be easy breaking out of that slump against the Trail Blazers (33-36), who are one of the league's best teams at defending the perimeter. Portland has limited its opponents to 33.9 percent shooting from long range and 11 for 38 in its back-to-back victories. Since losing 14 of 16 on the road, the Trail Blazers have won consecutive road games for the first time since early January with a 99-89 victory at Chicago on Thursday and a 104-93 win at Atlanta on Friday. Against the Hawks, Wesley Matthews led the way with 28 points, Damian Lillard added 22 and LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 and 13 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who are tied for 10th in the West and three games behind the eighth-place Los Angeles Lakers. "We're going to keep on fighting until we're mathematically eliminated,'' Matthews said. Aldridge has scored at least 20 in seven straight games, averaging 26.0 points and 11.7 rebounds during that stretch. He's also totaled 55 and 26, respectively, against the Thunder. With Lillard and Matthews combining to shoot 28 for 51 from beyond the arc, the Trail Blazers have made at least 10 3s in each of their last four games while shooting 48.4 percent from long range in that span.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl

Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Mike Shula vs. Wade Phillips: The best story of Super Bowl 50

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

USMNT are big favorites against Canada

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in the NHL playoff hunt

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Johnny Manziel dropped by agent

Michael Irvin: Cowboys should save Manziel

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

The merits of trading Blake Griffin to the Hornets

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

Could the Marlins contend in 2016?

Report: Browns to cut Manziel in March

Browns rip Manziel in statement

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker