NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, December 31st (All times Eastern)
Portland Trail Blazers (24-7) at Oklahoma City Thunder (25-5), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the league's very best square off Tuesday night when the Oklahoma City Thunder welcome the Portland Trail Blazers to Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder own the NBA's best record at 25-5, while the Blazers share the third-best mark at 24-7. Portland trails OKC by 1 1/2 games in the ultra- competitive Western Conference.
The Thunder head into this contest on fire and with vengeance on their minds. They've won three in a row, 12 of the last 13 and 20 of their last 22 since Nov. 16.
One of those two losses came at the hands of the Blazers on Dec. 4 in Portland.
On Sunday, the Thunder thrashed the Houston Rockets, 117-86 in Oklahoma City. The Thunder held the Rockets to 0-for-12 from the field and started the game on a 13-0 run.
"Defensively, I thought our guys really locked in," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We set the tone of the basketball game on the defensive end. When going into the game we did not want to give up transition points or shots, and I don't think they had many going into the fourth quarter."
Kevin Durant scored 33 points, pulled down 13 rebounds and dished out five assists en route to yet another Western Conference Player of the Week honor.
Jeremy Lamb had 22 points off the bench for Oklahoma City, while Reggie Jackson, who is starting in place of the injured Russell Westbrook, tallied 16 points with eight assists, and Thabo Sefolosha finished with 13 points for the Thunder, who shot 57.3 percent from the field.
The Blazers are limping into Tuesday's contest the losers of two straight. This is the first time all season the Trail Blazers have dropped consecutive games.
"We have 24 wins. Two consecutive loses aren't going to keep us down," said guard Wesley Matthews. "We're going to make mistakes, but at the same time we aren't going to act like this is the best we can do."
Portland fell at home to the two-time defending champion Miami Heat on Saturday night, then lost in New Orleans to the Pelicans on Monday. The Blazers lost by a combined three points in those two outings.
On Monday, the Blazers fell 110-108. It was the 18th consecutive time the Blazers scored over 100 points, but it was also the ninth straight game where they allowed 100 or more. (Portland leads the NBA in scoring at 108.6 ppg, but is 27th in opponents' scoring at 102.9 ppg.)
Damian Lillard led the way for Portland against the Pelicans with 29 points on 5-for-8 shooting from long range. He leads the NBA with 97 3-pointers made this season.
LaMarcus Aldridge scored 28 for the Blazers and moved into fifth on the franchise's all-time scoring list. He is 40 points short of Jerome Kersey in fourth.
Matthews was the only other Blazer in double figures with 18 points.
Portland's victory on Dec. 4 snapped a seven-game losing streak to the Thunder. The Blazers have dropped three straight in OKC and five of their last six games there.
12/31 10:18:56 ET