Portland Trail Blazers 2009-10, I’d like you to meet the Portland Trail Blazers 2007-08. The Oklahoma City Thunder are basically the Blazers, just a few years removed. Granted, there are plenty of differences between the two teams (plus don’t even get me started on a city vs. city competition), but similarities are clear: an exciting foundation of young players that is capable of taking teams by surprise, yet is still one or two pieces away from doing some damage in the postseason.
It’s like when Marty McFly sees his younger self in “Back to the Future II”, although hopefully this game will not tear a whole in the fabric of the space time continuum. The Thunder are on a five game win streak (against solid opponents, too: Atlanta, at New Orleans, Denver) and Kevin Durant has become not only the greatest scoring threat in the NBA, but the most consistent as well. Over the past 24 games Durant has scored at least 25 points a night. The Blazers must salvate at those numbers, since this team rarely has 25 point nights from any one player, and sadly a streak of 24 consecutive games from seems like a luxury.
If the sight of Durant isn’t enough to conjure up the ghosts of what-could-have-been, the Thunder know Portland’s other weakness—speedy point guards. Russell Westbrook is averaging 20 points and nine assists during the team’s winning streak and he dropped 23 against Portland during these two team’s only other meeting, the 84-73 Blazers victory on November 1st. While his game is still ironing out some kinks (like those nine turnovers he had against Portland), Westbrook could call his shot—by pointing a path to the basket in advance—and still dribble the ball around Steve Blake or Jerryd Bayless. He is like Aaron Brooks, but with the option of passing to Durant at will.
Portland has a four game winning streak against the Thunder, yet they are looking up at them in the standings. It’s a weird enough sensation to see the words “Oklahoma City” in the Northwest Division, but it’s even more bizarre to seem them with a higher winning percentage than most NBA teams. Despite having played three less games than the Blazers, this matchup is the Thunder’s final game before the break—while the league schedule has one final swift kick to Portland’s dignity, a back-to-back road game in Phoenix—so perhaps Durant’s All-Star mind will be in Dallas, instead of scoring on the kid from Dallas.
Vegas Line: Oklahoma City -1