Author - Micah Ansley

Thunder Playoff Game Day #4: vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland leads the series 2-1

Sunday, April 21 :: 8:30 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: TNT (245 DirecTV, 31 Cox, 730 HD 108 AT&T U-Verse, 138 Dish)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 5½-point favorites. The over/under is 222.
Online StreamTNT | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Blazers: here

SETTING THE SEASON

What if?

What if the Thunder can win game 4, steal a road win at the Moda Center, and eventually win the first round series against the Portland Trail Blazers? Well, they would become only the 21st team in 283 series in NBA history to accomplish that feat. However, more recent history is a bit more positive; six teams have done it since 2012.

As most Thunder fans know, this includes the only Finals team in OKC history (I’m not counting the Sonics) as the Thunder were down 0-2 in 2012 against the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Thunder not only got a Good Russ but Great Russ performance, especially after a poor shooting 1st quarter. He remained in control of his emotions, the pace and the flow of the game. The head to head matchup with Damian Lillard remains riveting and entertaining.

Again, game 4 is not a must win. Being down 3-1 is not ideal but even OKC gave up a 3-1 series lead against the Warriors in 2016 and it has occurred 11 times. However, more often than not, the team coming back has home court advantage for game 7. Just ask the Thunder about that.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. on TNT.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson & Lisa Salters will have the call on ABC.

SCOUTING THE ENEMY

  • The Portland Trail Blazers went 53-29 on the season, finishing third in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Trail Blazers went 8-2.
  • In their last game, Portland overcame a 28-point deficit, beating the Sacramento Kings 136-131 on April 11.
  • Oklahoma City swept Portland in the regular season 4-0.
  • All-time the Thunder are 120-116 against the Blazers.
  • Since relocating to Oklahoma City, the Thunder are 22-22 against Portland.
  • The Thunder are 2-8 in their last 10 games at the Rose Garden.
  • Portland and the Thunder are tied 2-2 in playoff series wins. Haven’t met since 1991.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Jusuf Nurkic (leg) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Portland came on March 24, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 103-83 (20-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (35 points) vs. Portland occurred during a 107-72 loss on April 3, 2009.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out.
  • Hamidou Diallo (elbow) is out.

Keys to the Game

PG the playmaker

By now it is clear that Paul George will struggle from deep this series; or he could get hot and find his shooting stroke in Game 4. No one really knows because George is a streaky shooter. However, he stepped up his playmaking game, recording 6 assists, and his aggressiveness to the basket resulted in 17 free throws, making 16 of them. Westbrook was great, but PG was probably the difference in the game

Ferguson foul trouble

I love Raymond Felton. But if he has to play 14 minutes again, even with the Blazers sometimes playing 3 guards, I’m not sure that OKC can win game 4. Felton had a RPM of -1.09 during the regular season, which was 43rd amongst point guards. But advanced metrics aside, OKC is just scarier with a backcourt of Schroeder, Westbrook, and Ferguson when Portland goes small.

Deny Dame

Coach Billy Donovan rolled out full court pressure, sometimes light and sometimes heavy, and had his guards deny Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum the ball as much as possible. While Lillard went off in the third quarter, he was quiet in the 4th and that was likely due to tired legs from working so hard to get open the first half. If OKC can bring that pressure again on Sunday night, a game 4 win is likely.

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Thunder Playoff Game Day #3: vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Portland leads the series 2-0

Sunday, April 19 :: 8:30 p.m. CST :: Chesapeake Energy Arena (18,203)
TV Coverage: TNT (245 DirecTV, 31 Cox, 730 HD 108 AT&T U-Verse, 138 Dish)
Radio Coverage: 98.1 FM/640AM/97.1 Tulsa
View from the enemyHere.
Line: The Oklahoma City Thunder are a 8-point favorites. The over/under is 222.
Online StreamWatch ESPN | WWLS Sports Animal | Live Stats | Twitter | Facebook
Game Notes: Thunder: here | Blazers: here

SETTING THE SEASON

Home sweet home.

Hopefully the Thunder will feel more comfortable at Chesapeake Arena than they did at the ModaCenter on Tuesday night. Game 2 got out of hand during the second quarter thanks to a string of ugly possessions and “unacceptable” play from Russell Westbrook.

While it was encouraging to see Paul George play well and the Thunder did keep Enes Kanter in check and largely off of the glass, OKC collectively shot so poorly from the perimeter, it ground the offense to a halt after the first quarter.

The good news is that role players typically play better at home.  Look for Jerami Grant, Dennis Schroeder, and Terrance Ferguson to break out and shoot the ball better. Of course, they can’t shoot much worse unless they simply miss everything they shoot. I still believe in this team and think they can still win in 6 games but they need to fix a few things.

Game 3 is not a must win, but it is as close to a must win as possible. No NBA team in history has won a series after being down 3-0 and few teams have even forced a game six. As the NBA puts it- win or go home. Tonight, OKC hopes being home is the remedy to their poor play in this series.

Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

FOLLOWING THE ACTION

  • You can catch the radio on Oklahoma City’s WWLS, 98.1 FM. Matt Pinto will be your play-by-play voice. If you’re in Tulsa, catch it on 1450 AM.
  • Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson & Lisa Salters will have the call on ABC.

SCOUTING THE ENEMY

  • The Portland Trail Blazers went 53-29 on the season, finishing third in the Western Conference.
  • In their last 10 games, the Trail Blazers went 8-2.
  • In their last game, Portland overcame a 28-point deficit, beating the Sacramento Kings 136-131 on April 11.
  • Oklahoma City swept Portland in the regular season 4-0.
  • All-time the Thunder are 120-116 against the Blazers.
  • Since relocating to Oklahoma City, the Thunder are 22-22 against Portland.
  • The Thunder are 2-8 in their last 10 games at the Rose Garden.
  • Portland and the Thunder are tied 2-2 in playoff series wins. Haven’t met since 1991.
  • INJURY REPORT:
    Jusuf Nurkic (leg) is out.
  • The Thunder’s largest margin of victory over Portland came on March 24, 2013, where Oklahoma City prevailed by a score of 103-83 (20-point margin of victory).
  • Meanwhile, the Thunder’s largest margin of defeat (35 points) vs. Portland occurred during a 107-72 loss on April 3, 2009.

THUNDER INJURY REPORT

  • Andre Roberson (ruptured patellar tendon) is out.
  • Hamidou Diallo (elbow) is out.

Keys to the Game

Good Russ
Despite the shooting numbers, outside of few possessions in the second quarter when the game did get away from the Thunder, I think Russ played an okay game. He needs to remain aggressive in setting up his teammates and trust them to knock down shots at home. From my limited research, I know that Westbrook is leading the NBA in potential assists this playoffs, averaging 25 per game.
Role players
We all think that stars win playoff games but that’s just not accurate. Most teams, outside of the Warriors, are so evenly matched that the bench and role players stepping up is often the difference in winning the series.

Take care of it 

Oklahoma City didn’t take care of the ball in the second half against Portland and that was a huge part of it all. They have to take care of it tonight.

We invite you to follow Thunder Digest on Twitter and like Thunder Digest on Facebook. Don't forget to subsribe on Youtube! Our Podcast is on iTunes and on Stitcher. We also have a Thunder Digest Instagram account if you love fun Thunder photography!