Feb 11, 2019; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) and forward Paul George (13) celebrate after Westbrook hit a three-point basket during the second half at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City won 120-111. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

The Thunder and the Blazers are set to tip-off off in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs and there are a lot of story lines for both teams, but you know, Thunder website and all, we’re going to do our best to check out the top five storylines for your Thunder brodies.

George’s shoulder

George has been day-to-day on the injury report with that shoulder that’s been nagging him since just after the All-Star Break. Oklahoma City needs George for this series, and frankly going forward. He leads the league in real plus/minus. They’re Suns bad when he’s off the floor. There’s a reason why he was up for MVP for a large part of the season. The Thunder need a guy who averaged 38 points against the Trail Blazers in the regular season. Any games he misses and the Thunder win, you can consider a steal.

Portland’s 3-point shooting

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are two of the scarier 3-point threats in the NBA. However, Oklahoma City did a great job in their four meetings, holding Portland to under 29 percent from deep. Most of the games, three of the four, were played before the All-Star break. So, this is a different Thunder team from then. Oklahoma City needs to do the same kind of 3-point defense we saw in the regular season. That’ll be even more paramount as the series progresses. If Oklahoma City can jump up and take a series advantage, you may see Portland just start chucking threes, in hopes of getting back into the series.

Billy Donovan’s rotations

Donovan’s rotations throughout the regular season are very fluid. He’s always trying to work and find what is the best for the team, or as we would hope so. The Thunder need some consistency and that starts with the rotations. Will Donovan find his set of guys? He did run the starters a few extra minutes down the stretch. This could be a playoff primer? That remains to be seen. Oklahoma City’s rotations have to be solid.

Who steps up?

Sure, Westbrook and George are going to ball out. Who else is going to step up? You’re going to need a third or even fourth guy step up in this series. Is that Terrance Ferguson? Maybe it’s Dennis Schröder or even Markieff Morris. It’s unsure. My bet is on Schröder stepping up but the Thunder need someone to be that wildcard that forces Portland to move some of their defenders around, freeing up some more for George and Westbrook.

Westbrook’s emotions

We talked about it in our three things to watch, but it’s real. Westbrook’s distaste for Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers has not gone unnoticed. He’s called Jusuf Nurkic a clown. He barked continuously at Lillard to the point Lillard said he doesn’t even acknowledge Westbrook on the floor. This series is bigger than Westbrook. He has to keep his emotional IQ up. He cannot let the Blazer get him riled up to the point where he’s trying to prove he’s the best player on the court.

Playoff P

George, we’ll be honest, struggled against Utah last season. It’s been a point of contention for the Defensive Player of the Year candidate. George’s woeful percentages against Utah have to be looming as he’s said it’s one of the reasons he returned to Oklahoma City. He said he had unfinished business. Oklahoma City likes that attitude but which George will we see? The one that was pushing for MVP and nuclearing teams? Or will it be the George who’s struggled shooting threes, only 33.6 percent. If “Playoff P” comes in, the Thunder could roll this series.

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Chuck Chaney

Founder & Editor-in-Chief.
Member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.