Thunder Try To Keep Two Streaks Going Tonight
By Randy Renner
The Thunder head into tonight’s game at Portland hoping to win their fifth straight road game while sending the Trail Blazers to their fourth straight loss at home.
OKC hasn’t won six straight away from The Peake since January of 2014 and the Blazers haven’t dropped four straight at the Moda Center since 2013, the Thunder will try to keep both streaks going tonight.
"Whoever is in front of us, we're just trying to get better," Durant told reporters after finishing with 24 points in OKC’s 117-113 win against the Lakers on Friday night in LA.
The Thunder had blown out the Lakers in the first two games the teams played this season but Friday was a dog fight all the way to the end with the good guys struggling on defense once again and again allowing an individual opponent to have a career night. Friday it was Lou Williams who torched the Thunder for 44 points, 23 of them in a frenetic fourth quarter.
The Blazers have a couple guys who are capable of going off for big numbers. Point guard Damian Lillard scored 40 points in Portland’s Friday loss to Golden State and C.J. McCollum scored 24 against the Thunder in OKC’s 106-90 win last month. Lillard also scored 40 points against OKC in a December, 2014 game.
Of course the Thunder duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are having a historic season together. Their efficiency together and separately ranks among the best the NBA has ever seen.
Together, the pair’s Player Efficiency Rating (PER) is now 58.3, the highest of any two players in the shot clock era. Individually, Westbrook’s PER is second in the NBA at 29.7 and Durant is right behind at 28.6 to rank third in the league.
Oklahoma City has won six straight games with both players in the lineup, the Thunder lost to the Kings Monday night with Durant on the bench with a sprained toe.
The OKC offense continues to hum along, scoring an average of 108.9 points a game and 109.6 points per 100 possessions. Both totals are second in the league behind Golden State.
The Thunder, now 26-11, are generating many of those points by getting into the lane. They rank near the top of the league with 25.6 free-throw attempts per game and in the top three with both a 79.7 free-throw percentage and 46.9 points in the paint per game.
That's how the Thunder did their damage last month versus Portland (15-24). They owned a 48-34 edge in paint points and went 28-for-37 from the line in that 106-90 win.
Durant finished with 24 points that night but Westbrook had just 13 while missing 10 of 15 shots. The Thunder All-Star point guard, however, is coming off a huge game Friday when he scored 36, hit 13 of 16 from the free-throw line and pulled down 12 rebounds against the Lakers.
Durant has been hot lately, shooting 58.7 percent while going 7-for-10 from 3-point range to go along with 11.7 boards per game in the past three contests.
Defense has been a big problem for the Trail Blazers lately, giving up an average of 108.6 points during their current 1-4 stretch. They let visiting Golden State shoot 52.9 percent, including 18-for-32 from 3-point range, in their third straight defeat, 128-108 on Friday.
Tipoff tonight is set for 8:10pm Oklahoma time and you can see the game on Fox Sports Oklahoma. The Thunder’s 3-game road trip concludes Tuesday night at Minnesota.