Portland Trail Blazers (21-18) at Oklahoma City Thunder (22-18)
We came up short last night when the Indiana Pacers used a 37-16 first quarter to jump out on the Milwaukee Bucks and never looked back. The Pacers held on for a 109-96 win behind yet another double-double from Domantas Sabonis, who dropped 17 and 10 in the Indiana victory. The Bucks came out flat early on the road and just couldn’t recover, and we will be forced to take the loss. Tonight, we will look at a game in the Western Conference that has huge playoff implications as the Portland Trail Blazers play against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Portland Trailer Blazers will head to Oklahoma City to play a surging Thunder team Tuesday night. This is game one of a huge road trip for the Blazers that will see them play four straight teams that are currently slated to make the playoffs in the west. The Blazers currently occupy the six seed out west, but only one game separates them from the eight seed, so they have very little room for error.
The Thunder look like they finally have their act together after a slow start and are winners of eight out of their last eleven games. The Thunder are big -8-point home favorites. The game total over-under is set at 206.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The Portland Trail Blazers embark on a road trip that could very well set the tone for the rest of their season. And they are doing it without their best player Damien Lillard. Lillard is day to day with a calf strain and has struggled to stay healthy and on the court over the last couple of weeks. The Blazers have not been good without their star point guard, and he is questionable as to whether he will play tonight or not. If he sits, this game could be a blowout.
The Blazers play against OKC, Houston, New Orleans, and Minnesota during this road trip and have to pick up a win or two if they want to have any real chance to compete for the playoffs. Lillard has been good when he has played, but that has been about it. C.J McCollum has been serviceable at the other guard, chipping in 21 points a game, but he can’t do it all without Lillard and will struggle tonight if his counterpart isn’t on the floor.
The Oklahoma City Thunder made a huge splash in the offseason when they put together their version of the big-3 when they brought in Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to go with MVP Russell Westbrook. Things got off to a rocky start as all three players were used to having the ball a lot and the Thunder struggled to find a solid rotation.
The answer appears to be to have Carmelo Anthony take a bit of a back seat to George and Westbrook and since they have done that, the Thunder has been tough to beat. The Thunder slipped up against Phoenix in their last game out after a long road trip, but have been red hot lately, and they now look like a lock for a top-four seed in the Western Conference. You saw just how good this team could be when they have everything moving in the right direction when they beat the Lakers at Staples Center by almost forty points last week. Yeah, the Lakers are down this year but beating them at home by forty is still quite an accomplishment.
If Damien Lillard were a for sure scratch tonight, this line would likely be 11 or 12 points. The fact that he might play has kept it lower. Portland is just a much different team without Lillard on the floor. They rushed him back from injury already last week and after playing one game, he went right back to the bench. I doubt they will make that same mistake again and I expect him to either sit or be very limited tonight.
If that is the case, I see OKC dominating this game. The Blazers just aren’t a good team without Lillard on the court and OKC will have huge mismatches in the frontcourt. Even if Lillard plays and is at his best, which he won’t be, the Thunder could win and cover this number. It just feels like the Thunder have turned the page and are finally starting to gel, and they can’t be dropping games at home to fringe playoff teams like the Blazers.
Give me the Oklahoma City Thunder in a not all that competitive game tonight laying a little more wood than I would like at home.