OKC ThunderDome

Beyond…Waaaay Beyond…

Game 5 Preview: Thunder at Portland Trailblazers

Tipoff at 10:30EST

What the pros are saying:

What I’m saying:

  • The negative numbers that the Thunder are accumulating are kind of staggering.  Lots of turnovers, a terrible shooting percentage, an even worse 3 point shooting percentage…and like I mentioned before, those numbers don’t even tell the whole story.
  • A bigger part of the story is the difference between their team psyche from last year’s playoffs and where it is now.  In fact, I even wrote about it.  If you look at the stats from the Lakers series, what is quite notable is the fact that the team did not play well from a pure numbers standpoint.  Durant wasn’t great, they were still prone to bad shots at times, and ultimately succumbed to a more talented team.  And yet, that team kept fighting in a way this team has not.
  • Take a look at the early season standings.  Aside from the fact that the Thunder are .500, they are also looking up at three teams that will be competing with them for the division.  They have to take their games against Portland, Denver, and Utah more seriously.

What to expect:

After getting burned with my last two predictions, I’m under no illusions this time around.  Portland is a better team playing better ball.  So going into this game, I’m going to be looking for incremental improvements.   Sure, a win would be nice with the Eastern Conference champs coming to town this Sunday, but as for right now, I would really just like to see 4 quarters of solid play.  In fact, I’d like to see one quarter of solid play where the Thunder actually win the quarter.

Thus far, the Thunder have only come out ahead in three of the 16 quarters that they have played.

The key matchup for the Thunder will be Durant locking horns with Portland’s Nicholas Batum.  Batum matches up well against Durant, but perhaps this is the kind of matchup Durant needs to wake up a bit.  He plays the game on a level that seems remarkably easy; maybe a bit of a challenge will help him hone in, in a more deliberate manner.

I’ll also be looking for some semblance of an offense this time out.  The Clippers loss was so revealing because the Thunder displayed zero patience when it came to execution for good shots.  That falls on the coaching and on the PG, Westbrook.   Both Coach Brooks and Westbrook need to be more engaged and disciplined.

My hopes are tempered, but perhaps the Thunder will surprise me.

Prediction: Portland by 8

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