Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Game #5 Preview: Blazers vs. Thunder — Tonight's Storylines

By Jonathan Ryan Davis

1)  LA Hangover?:  Portland played a terrible game on Sunday in Los Angeles.  Gerald Wallace was taken out of the game, Portland failed to create any motion or consistency on offense, and the Blazers' defense looked more like the defense of an All-Star game than a team who was ranked third in the league in defensive efficiency.  Save the final 10 minutes of the fourth quarter, Portland had no positive takeaways from the Clippers game.  It will be interesting to see which team shows up tonight against the Thunder.  Will it be the scrapping, energetic team that emerged in the 4th quarter on Sunday and almost pulled off an improbable (and unworthy) victory?  Or will it be the team who looked lost and stagnant on offense?  Here's hoping Portland realizes they can also play their uptempo offense and smothering defense away from the Rose Garden.

2)  Kevin Durant:  Kevin Durant, the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, taken behind that one guy...what's his name...he leads a Thunder team that is poised to control the Western Conference.  The Thunder have become the media darlings and are picked by most to be the elite Western Conference team of the future.  Why is that the case?  Quite simply, because they have Kevin Durant, one of the most complete offensive weapons the NBA has seen in some time.  For Portland to be victorious tonight, they must contain KD and force Russell Westbrook to beat them, a dynamic player himself, but a more erratic player.  The Blazers should use a combination of Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, and Gerald Wallace to shadow Durant and force him to defer to his teammates. 

3)  Defense Creates Offense:  We saw on Sunday night what happens when the Blazers play aggressive, deny defense: their offense gains speed and fluidity.  Tonight, Portland must create turnovers, control the defensive glass, and keep the Thunder to a low shooting percentage.  In doing so, the Blazers can push the pace and convert easier baskets on the other end.  Portland, without Roy, does not have the personnel at this point to run an effective slow-day, half court offense.  That is not to say they will not develop an efficient half court offense over the course of the season; however, for their current personnel to thrive, Portland needs to run, cut, drive, and dish.  Let's hope they get back to that style of basketball tonight.  Aside from being entertaining for the fans, it has shown to be a winning formula for Portland this year.

Go Blazers!

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