Matchup: Oklahoma City Thunder vs Portland Trail Blazers
Records: Thunder (24-13), Blazers (22-16)
Where to Watch
Gear up for an electric clash as the @trailblazers host the @okcthunder! Catch all the action on 2019's 1st #SaturdayMorningLive.#RipCity #ThunderUp pic.twitter.com/xG3evWhYyk- NBAIndia (@NBAIndia) January 3, 2019
Location: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Ever since starting the season 10-3, it's been a rough campaign for the Blazers. They've gone 12-13 since, which included a stretch where they lost six of seven games.
But this upcoming five-game homestand is their chance to establish some consistency and rise up the ranks in the crowded Western Conference standings.
The team's backcourt fuels their offense and from the season so far, there's reason to be optimistic about the campaign ahead. Damian Lillard has been quietly rankings among the league's best offensive stars this season but the team's other two stars are struggling to be consistent with their production.
CJ McCollum had 35 points in the team's huge 34-point win over the Philadelphia 76ers last Sunday but he's shooting a career-low 32.9% on 3-point shooting (one of his biggest strengths) and his assists average of 2.5 is lowest in four years. Imagine how well Portland would start playing if he finds his shooting stroke.
Through 36 games, at the time of writing, the Blazers are a team at the middle of the pack - 13th by offensive rating (109.7) and 16th by defensive rating (108.9). Unfortunately for Portland, they begin their homestand by hosting the league's best defense in the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Mind you, the Thunder are the league's best defense without Andre Roberson. A large part of that is fueled by their energy, leading the league in steals - 10.5. Both their All-Stars Russell Westbrook (2.7) and Paul George (2.3), among their other exploits, are ranked first and second in the league, respectively, for steals per game.
Westbrook also leads the league in triple-doubles (11) by averaging 20.7 points (lowest since 2010), 10.9 rebounds, and 10.1 assists. The team is playing so well despite Westbrook averaging 4.6 turnovers per game (2nd in the league) and shooting 41.6% from the field (lowest since his rookie year) and a career-low 62.6% from the free-throw line.
Imagine the potential in this team, once Westbrook starts taking better care of the ball and start making more of his attempts from the field.
Meanwhile, George is having a career-year, averaging career-highs in points (26.7), rebounds (8.1), assists (4.1), and steals (2.3).
- The Oklahoma City Thunder are one of only six teams in the league (at the time of writing) to have a winning record both at home and on the road. They are 11-9 in road arenas ahead of this game in Portland.
- The Portland Trail Blazers have won 70% of their home games so far, winning 14 of their previous 20 games at the Moda Center.
- Coming to the unfortunate subject of injuries. The visitors will certainly miss their defensive stalwart - Andre Roberson, who is expected to return later this month. Also, Alex Abrines, who hasn't played in the team's last five games, is reportedly a game-time decision and has no set timetable for his return.
- On the other hand, the Blazers currently have no players on the injury list.
Last Time They Played
Date: Mar. 26, 2018
Score: Blazers 108, Thunder 105
Blazers: CJ McCollum - 34 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists on 58.3% shooting.
Thunder: Russell Westbrook - 23 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and 4 steals.