I am in the tedious process of changing the supporter for this blog from Blogger to Wordpress. Most likely this will take a few more days and regular posts should return to Thunder Peakes. I will have the link to the new blog shortly. Thank you for your patience, if I haven't lost you as a reader.
I wanted to take this opportunity to renew this blog in full. This particular blog has been my sole inspiration for finding what I want to do with the rest of my life. And all of you reading this are apart of of it! I reckon that if I had not gotten the amount of constructive criticism from my family and from my fans, then I would have never realized my real dream. So this post is to you, my special and loyal fans. I appreciate all the support you have given me for this blog, and promise to move wholeheartedly into making this the best blog you have ever seen. Stay tuned, big things are in store.
That was about all that was holding the Thunder together tonight on their trip to Portland, the front game of a back-to-back. Serge Ibaka was out with a chest contusion, aka chest bruise, and Thabo Sefolosha was out with a sore neck. With the Thunder's two best defenders and two of the better scoring options for Oklahoma City out tonight, no one would have blamed the Thunder if they did either of two things: 1) let Portland go for 100+ points, and 2) Let Portland win.
83 Points?!? Two quarters under 20 points?!?
Yup. OKC continues to amaze.
With the help of some bench players playing extended minutes, great efforts by the likes of Nick Collison and DeAndre Liggins, and with a tad bit of luck, Oklahoma City prevailed in a game that surely seemed destined to slip through their fingers. Kevin Durant led the team with 33 points, dominating like always when the Thunder needed him the most. However, it wasn't just luck and KD that got the Thunder through this game tonight.
Two of the biggest stars for Portland, Nicolas Batum and Damien Lillard, scored only 30 points on 31 shot attempts. The Trail Blazers could not plug the whole in the middle even with the likes of Serge Ibaka missing. Oklahoma City scored a total of 46 points in the paint. As a team, Portland shot horrendously from the field and even worse from the arc. The bench was much, much worse for the game, scoring only 6 points all together and earning the moniker of the league's worst bench. As much as the Thunder did, the Trail Blazers essentially packaged this win and tied it with a bright red ribbon.
Many different players got playing time tonight, especially Perry Jones. Even though Jones still looks quite lost defensively, a dunk in the first half on an alley-op from Liggins showed us all how explosive he really can be.
Lock down defense towards the end and some clutch shots sewed it up. Defense wins games.
Stat of the Night: 3 for 3. DeAndre Liggins, in his first career start for an NBA team, went a perfect 3 for 3 from the arc tonight.
Player of the Night: DeAndre Liggins. Kevin Durant put in his usual 30 points, but the man of the night was Liggins. Going perfect from three, scoring 11 points, and making the game-securing rebound all warrant the game ball for Liggins tonight. Good to know that the Thunder have another Sefolosha if they need him.
Oklahoma City heads to Portland tonight to face off with the up-and-coming Trail Blazers for second time this season.
In the last match-up between these two teams, Oklahoma City handily put down Portland for their very first win of the season following the heartbreaking loss to the Spurs in the season opener. With the team in disarray from the fresh wound of the James Harden trade, Westbrook rose to the challenge and put the Trail Blazers away with a 32-point, 6-assist, 5-rebound performance. Kevin Durant destroyed the boards with 17 rebounds and in only his second game with the Thunder, Kevin Martin was a perfect 3 for 3 from the arch and put in 19 points to cushion the win for OKC.
35 games later, Portland faces Oklahoma City on a collision course for more than just a chance in the Western Conference playoffs. The Trail Blazers have a 20-16 record under their belt with impressive wins vs. Miami, San Antonio, and @ Memphis. Break-out players such as Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, and J.J. Hickson are starting to hit their stride at the right time. Damien Lillard is an early ROY, or Rookie of the Year, candidate. Lamarcus Aldrige is averaging more in every statistic except field goal % and still has an outside chance as an All-star selection. However, the Trail Blazers lack of a bench can hinder their chances against teams with more depth, such as the Thunder. With an outside chance at the 6th or even 5th seed in the Western Conference, barring injuries and with the help of losses from Golden state, Portland has a legitimate chance to make it to the playoffs and a slim, if not decent, chance at advancing past the second round.
Oklahoma City comes into this game tonight after an absolute thwacking to flailing Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder, facing Portland, has a huge advantage that they don't have over many teams in the Western Conference. There is no real defensive stopper for the Best Scorer EVER, Kevin Durant. Since the Trail Blazers are rarely known for their lock down defensive, barring some miracle defensive intensity, they will have a hard time defending the possible future league MVP. Unless the usual scorers for Portland go unconscious and the bench decides to produce, the Thunder will win tonight's game, most likely in a wire-to-wire close game.
Prediction: Thunder 102, Portland 97
Things to Remember
No Air Congo. The Oklahoma City power forward came out of the game against the Lakers with a chest contusion, which is actually no more than a chest bruise. Although it must be decently painful to keep Ibaka out of tonight's game, look at this as no more than caution by the Thunder staff.
Keep Lillard In Check. Damien Lillard, the star rookie point guard for the Trail Blazers, is having a great rookie season. Barring injury, Lillard is a lock for the Rookie of the Year award. In order for the Thunder to secure the win tonight, Oklahoma City will have to keep track of Lillard, cut off his passing lanes, and remind him that he is in fact still a rookie.
Bench Production. The Thunder live and die with the production of their bench, or the lack thereof. Production from the bench is usually the difference between a blowout win and a close win/loss. If Kevin Martin or another one of the bench players cannot produce for OKC tonight, look for this game to be much tougher for the league's best team.
The Oklahoma City Thunder face the D.C. Wizards tonight, the team with the worst record in the league at 4-28.
OKC comes into tonight's game from the front side of a back-to-back in Toronto. Even with the odd noon tip, the Thunder got their business done in Canada with out any major snafus. Minus a outrageously efficient second quarter from Alan Anderson, Oklahoma City handled the Raptors and left nothing to chance in a 104 to 92 win that was not nearly as close in the second half as the score displays.
The Thunder seem to have much of the chemistry worked out among their players and are working much more in rhythm than they were earlier in the season. Kevin Martin is starting to take more control of the ball and has regained his shooting rhythm which he lost for a stretch of games. Russell Westbrook has fixed his shooting stroke and is shooting and finishing at a better rate than he has for the past few games. Serge Ibaka is growing more confident in his offensive toolset and looking more smooth and confident from beyond the arch.
However, as much confidence that Oklahoma City seems to be building, all that can come down in a matter of one off night against a bad opponent. Just ask the Heat. The Wizards have some talent that can definitely sneak up on teams, and if you aren't completely ready for this team, they can surprise you and end up placing a loss on your record. Jordan Crawford, Jeremy Beal, and Nene can give an decent offensive output and you can never know when one of them will go off for a hot shooting night as some decent players have against the Thunder. However, the Wizards have only won four games for a reason. They have no real all-star or breakout players save John Wall, and Wall has spent the season on the bench injured. With Wall back, D.C.'s winning percentage might go up somewhat, but with out the chemistry of a veteran team and with a lack of scoring, this team is going to struggle to find wins for the rest of the season.
Oklahoma City got back to their winning ways tonight with their second win against the 76ers this season, putting the series at a 2-0 lead for the Thunder. This was a welcome sight and separation from the last game between these two teams which led to an overtime win for the Thunder. Tonight, OKC led for the majority of the game and win became more and more secure as time ran on. Both teams went to their benches with about three minutes left in the 4th quarter and the game was essentially over.
Philadelphia played fairly well for most of the game, with the 76ers staying fairly close up until the 4th quarter. Nick Young was efficient off the bench for Philly, registering 21 points and keeping them in the game with many of his makes from behind the arch. The starters for the 76ers did not fare very well, however, with only 2 players making it into double digits. Turnovers were killers for Philly, with 20 turnovers and the Thunder scoring 24 points off those turnovers. Missing the production from the starters was the final nail in the coffin and led to the the outcome of the game tonight.
Oklahoma City played very well tonight, shooting efficiently, crashing the boards, and playing stifling defense. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin were both perfect from beyond the arch, going a collective 8 for 8 for three. Wolverine was lava-hot tonight, going perfect from three, making many of his mid-range jumpers, and finishing at the rim with finesse. Much of the hitch in his shooting motion is long gone and the Westbrook that was shooting at a high percentage in the beginning of the season is back. KD was himself like always, making the All-star plays and making his man look like a fool. Both would score 27 and 26 respectively.