Both Thunder & Blazers May Be Without Stars
By Randy Renner
Thunder superstar Kevin Durant didn't practice with his teammates yesterday and wasn't even out on the floor shooting free throws when reporters were allowed out into the gym. He's missed two and a half games with what the team continues to describe as "a mild ankle sprain."
Portland Trail Blazers star forward LaMarcus Aldridge missed his team's game with the Rockets last night in Houston with a respiratory infection. The Blazers lost that game last night 110-95 snapping their five game winning streak.
If Durant and Aldridge can't play both teams will turn to their star point guards Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard to lead the way.
Westbrook is averaging 27.4 points a game, the highest of his career, and if he'd played enough games to qualify he'd be leading the NBA in scoring. But as we've all come to learn along with "Good Russ" comes "Bad Russ" and that version of him showed up in the last four minutes of the game against New Orleans Sunday night.
Westbrook took six shots, missed them all and never attempted to pass to his teammates during that stretch of the game. Once the ball got to Westbrook's hands that's where it stayed.
Of course Russ was probably thinking, 'hey even if I pass it to someone they're not gonna hit the shot so I might as well take it,' and that can be a valid argument.
Westbrook is usually the Thunder's best option when Durant's not on the floor, but Westbrook's best option is usually driving into the lane, not firing up a long 3-pointer either too early or too late in the shot clock.
Westbrook seemed to realize this when reporters asked him about it after Monday's practice.
"I honestly need to stop taking as many as I’m taking to tell you the truth," he said. "I’m gonna take those down as the season goes along."
"It’s not always a great shot for myself or for my team," Westbrook continued. "So I got to do a better job taking those out. My advantage is attacking regardless of who’s in front of me."
Lillard will be there much of the time tonight and he has not always fared too well in the matchup. He's averaging 14.9 points and shooting just 34.8 percent in nine career games against Oklahoma City, both his lowest against any Western Conference opponent.
In this season's Opening Night contest in Portland Lillard managed just 10 points, but the Blazers beat the Thunder that night as OKC tried to adjust to playing a game without Durant.
They've gotten much more used to that now with all the games KD's missed with his broken foot and now the sprained ankle. Westbrook has missed 14 himself with a broken finger.
Russ is averaging 27.8 points over his last six home meetings with Portland, but injuries sidelined him for the last two.
Aldridge has averaged 26.5 points and 13.3 rebounds in his last six games, and he scored 27 in the first meeting with the Thunder.
We probably won't know about the playing status of either Durant or Aldridge until just before the game. We'll have updates here on the website and on our Twitter feed page.
Tipoff is set for 7:10 inside The Peake. You can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma.