Blazers Stun Rockets in Game 1

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Portland vs. Oklahoma City: Preview, Analysis for Blazers' Division Showdown

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Portland vs. Oklahoma City: Preview, Analysis for Blazers' Division Showdown
Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE
Damian Lillard and head coach Terry Stotts have brought a breathe of fresh air to the Blazers this season.

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to continue what they built in the season opener, as they travel to take on the defending Western Conference champion Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

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).

“Damian played well,” head coach Terry Stotts told The Oregonian. “On the whole, for his outing, for him to have 23 and 11 in a game like this; it was pretty impressive.”

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

Listen: Blazers Radio Network; Thunder Radio Network

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.

Richard Rowe-US PRESSWIRE

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.

 

Projected starters

Blazers

PG Damian Lillard

SG Wesley Matthews

SF Nicolas Batum

PF LaMarcus Aldridge

C J.J. Hickson

Thunder

PG Russell Westbrook

SG Thabo Sefolosha

SF Kevin Durant

PF Serge Ibaka

C Kendrick Perkins

 

Prediction

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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