Oklahoma City Thunder vs Portland Trail Blazers: Lineups, preview & prediction 3/3/18

The Thunder will need to significantly up their game if they want to avoid falling victim to the streaking Blazers.

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The Oklahoma City Thunder (37-27) were at it again last night. They messed around with the Phoenix Suns for 47 minutes before finally pulling away to win, 124-116. The Thunder have now won four of five since the All-Star break, but have failed to be the least bit convincing in those wins despite facing some of the worst teams in the league.

As expected, Russell Westbrook ripped the Phoenix defense to shreds to the tune of 43 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists as he out-dueled Devin Booker. Paul George added 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals, and two blocks. However, Carmelo Anthony’s shooting woes continued as he went 6-of-18 from the field.

The Thunder are now set to experience a significant step up in competition as they visit the Portland Trail Blazers (37-27). The Blazers are also in the midst of their own impressive run. They’ve won five in a row and seven of their last eight games. 

They brought down the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves, 108-99, in their most recent outing. After a rough start, Damian Lillard rallied to have another strong game with 35 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Three other Blazers – CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Shabazz Napier – had at least 16 points.

Three keys to the game

 Home-court advantage – Just like what happened with the Timberwolves, the Blazers will catch a break of facing the Thunder on the second night of a back-to-back at home. Portland have been formidable on their home floor recently, winning 11 of their last 12 games at Moda Center.

Secondary stars – Lillard and Westbrook will be huge parts of their respective teams’ offenses, but it’ll likely be the secondary stars who end up deciding this game. George and McCollum have been mostly reliable all season, but if either falters, their teams would miss their production in a big way.

Bench production – Neither team has the deepest bench in the world, particularly the Thunder. However, the Blazers have been getting good outings from the likes of Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier, who has scored 36 points in his last two games. It’d be a huge win for the Blazers if they gain a significant advantage there.

Matchup to watch

Russell Westbrook vs Damian Lillard – No surprise here. Westbrook and Lillard bring it on a consistent basis, and they should be especially fired up to go head-to-head. Lillard has been on fire lately, putting up close to 32 points and six assists in his last ten games.

Thunder projected starting lineup

PG – Russell Westbrook | SG – Josh Huestis | SF – Paul George | PF – Carmelo Anthony | C – Steven Adams

Blazer projected starting lineup

PG – Damian Lillard | SG – CJ McCollum | SF – Maurice Harkless | PF – Al-Farouq Aminu | C – Jusuf Nurkic

Fantasy tip

The Blazers have their share of problems guarding opposing small forwards, and Paul George has capitalized on that fact. In his first two meetings against them, PG has put up 24.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 steals.

As for the Blazers, Lillard is obviously on fire of late as previously mentioned. However, McCollum can also light it up. He’s already torched the Thunder for 24.5 points on 53 percent shooting and could have another field day given OKC’s struggles against shooting guards with Andre Roberson out.

Betting tip

The Thunder have just not looked right for a while. They have the talent to turn it on and be better, but tonight’s game against the Blazers might not be the best spot for them to show it. The Blazers have been outstanding at home while the Thunder could be tired on the second night of a back-to-back. Take Portland to cover the four-point spread.

Prediction

The Blazers extend their win streak to six with a 111-104 home win over the Thunder.

TV info

This game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Northwest and Fox Sports Oklahoma. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.

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