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Blazers, Thunder battle in Oklahoma City Tuesday
By: Sam Chase - StatFox
Published: 3/7/2017  at  10:29:00 AM
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Tip-off: Tuesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Oklahoma City -6.5, Total: 222

After having their Monday night game postponed, the Blazers should be well-rested for a bout in Oklahoma City.

The Portland Trail Blazers took to the floor for a pregame shootaround in Minnesota on Monday night, but they didnít return to the floor afterwards as the game was postponed due to slick court conditions in the Target Center. Thus, when the Blazers play at Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, it wonít be on the second end of a back-to-back as scheduled, but a game played on two daysí rest. Portland enters the evening ninth in the West at 26-35 (25-36 ATS) and having won two straight games, including a 114-109 home win over the Thunder just last Thursday (POR +1). That game was the first of three straight losses against sub-.500 teams for Oklahoma City, which has since fallen on the road against Phoenix (118-111; PHX +5) and Dallas (104-89; DAL -1.5). That puts the Thunder at seventh in the Western Conference standings at 35-28 (34-28-1 ATS), half a game back of the Grizzlies and six games up on the eighth-place Nuggets. Over the last five seasons, favorites of 3.5 to 9.5 points that have failed to cover the spread in three straight games and are playing at least their sixth game in 10 days (OKC) are 43-78 ATS. In the same timeframe, games involving a home team that has allowed at least 100 points in five straight games and two teams with a point differential between -3 and +3 on the season are 50-23 Under against totals of at least 200. Shooting guards Victor Oladipo and Alex Abrines are questionable to play for OKC, while Portland remains without SG Evan Turner and PF Ed Davis, the latter of whom they recently lost to a season-ending injury.

For the entirety of the season, the Trail Blazers have been led by their starting guards, PG Damian Lillard (26.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.9 APG) and SG C.J. McCollum (23.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.0 SPG). For Lillard, itís a continuation of what heís been doing since pretty much his rookie season, although his scoring average has increased every year. He dominated against the Pistons last Tuesday with 34 points, nine assists and a season-high 11 rebounds. In the Blazersí most recent game, a win over Brooklyn on Saturday, he had 19 points and 11 assists. For McCollum, this season has been a natural extension of his breakout 2015-16 campaign, in which he scored 20.8 points per game. In his first two years in the league he averaged 5.8 and 6.3 points per game, respectively. McCollum led the team in scoring against Brooklyn with 31 points, and he added five boards and five assists. Recently-acquired C Jusuf Nurkic (8.7 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has been getting plenty of minutes since being acquired for C Mason Plumlee. Nurkic is averaging 14.5 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.7 SPG and 1.5 BPG as a Trail Blazer, proving he can thrive in a starting role. Joining those three in the starting lineup are SF Maurice Harkless (10.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.0 BPG) and, at least as of late, PF Noah Vonleh (3.3 PPG, 4.2 RPG). Harkless had 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting and three blocks against Brooklyn; he leads the teamís perimeter players with a 48.7% shooting percentage on the year. PF Al-Farouq Aminu (8.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.0 SPG), SG Allen Crabbe (10.3 PPG) and PF Meyers Leonard (5.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG) get key minutes off the bench.

The biggest story in Oklahoma City this season has been arguably the biggest story in all the NBA: the insane performances of PG Russell Westbrook (31.7 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 10.0 APG, 1.6 SPG) and the possibility that he may finish the season having averaged a triple-double. He leads the league in scoring (and usage rate, by a lot), is third in assists and, perhaps most remarkably, 12th in reboundsófirst among non-PFs/Cs, He has carried an especially heavy load in the teamís three straight losses, shooting 30.0 FGA (24.2 on the year) and making 37.7% of them (41.9%). His supporting cast did appear to get stronger around the trade deadline, when the team brought in PF Taj Gibson (11.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) and SF Doug McDermott (7.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG) from Chicago. McDermott has played nearly 30 minutes per game since joining the team, although he has not shot well (36.5%, 23.8% from deep). Some speculated that Gibson would replace PF Domantas Sabonis (6.0 PPG, 3.7 RPG) in the starting lineup, although that is yet to be the case. Gibsonís best game in his young career in OKC was against Portland last week, when he put up 15 points and six rebounds. Oladipo (16.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.2 SPG) and, to a lesser degree, the rookie Abrines (6.0 PPG) have been key players around Westbrook this season, and having them both out at the shooting guard spot would be a major hit. Oladipo has now missed six straight games with a back injury, which surely accounts for some of Westbrookís enormous workload recently. Newly-added PG Norris Cole (4.3 PPG in three games) soaked up some of Abrinesí minutes after he left with injury against Dallas, while SFs Andre Roberson (6.7 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG) and Jerami Grant (5.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG) shared minutes at the three. C Steven Adams (12.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.1 BPG) starts at the five, while C Enes Kanter (14.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG) provides scoring and rebounding off the bench. Kanter had 16 points and 10 rebounds in only 19 minutes against Dallas.

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