Portland vs. Oklahoma City: Preview, Analysis for Blazers' Division Showdown
Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE
The Blazers (1-0) received an unbelievable performance from rookie point guard Damian Lillard in the opener. The Oakland, Calif., native scored 23 points and dished out 11 assists in a 116-106 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Rose Garden on Wednesday.
He became the first player to finish with at least 21 points and nine assists in an NBA debut since LeBron James did it on Oct. 29, 2003. Lillard was also the third player in NBA history, alongside Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas, to score at least 20 points and hand out 10 assists in their first game (via Joe Freeman of The Oregonian).
There will be bumps in the road for a Blazers team with five rookies and a roster with an average age of 24.6. Let's take a closer look at the Northwest Division showdown.
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
When: Friday, Nov. 2, 5 p.m. PT
Watch: Comcast Sports Northwest; Fox Sports Oklahoma
Betting line: Oklahoma City (-9) per OddsShark
Blazers injuries (via USA Today)
G Ronnie Price, ankle, questionable
G Elliot Williams, Achilles, out indefinitely
Oklahoma City injuries (via USA Today)
No injuries to report
Matchup to watch
Nicolas Batum vs. Kevin Durant
Nicolas Batum had a stellar opener in his first game since signing his new four-year, $46 million contract in the offseason (via ESPN.com) with 26 points and six rebounds.
He'll face arguably his toughest test of the year against MVP candidate Kevin Durant.
"If you let him go free, he will kill you," Batum said of Durant to Mike Tokito of The Oregonian.
No one expects Batum to win this matchup, but Durant has traditionally not fared as well against the Blazers when compared to other teams. His 23.8 points per game in 20 games against Portland is the third lowest average against an opponent (via Yahoo!).
With James Harden gone, holding Durant in check will be even more crucial for the Blazers to pull out an upset.
What they're saying
The biggest question for Oklahoma City is how it fares following the Harden trade for Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb.
Was it the right move? Harden didn't make the debate any easier with an impressive 37-point, 12-assist performance in his first game with the Houston Rockets.
For the Thunder, their focus now is how will they redevelop the chemistry that helped them make the NBA Finals (via Berry Tramel of The Oklahoman).
The time might be now for the Blazers to capitalize, while the Thunder try to figure it out.
PG Damian Lillard
SG Wesley Matthews
SF Nicolas Batum
PF LaMarcus Aldridge
C J.J. Hickson
PG Russell Westbrook
SG Thabo Sefolosha
SF Kevin Durant
PF Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
Despite losing Harden, the Thunder still have the same starting lineup as last year. Although they will be coming off a back-to-back scenario, their youth and home-court advantage negates that.
The Blazers will put up a fight with Lillard vs. Westbrook being another matchup to watch. Portland loses a close one, 103-99.
What are your keys and predictions for Friday's matchup?
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