Trail Blazers vs Thunder Sunday, 03/27/11 AT 05:00PM

Rough Road Swing Starts In Oklahoma

03/26/11
  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 5.0

    A three-game road swing awaits the Portland Trail Blazers (42-30) - all matchups against potential playoff-bound teams. Luckily, Portland has momentum on its side after dropping the San Antonio Spurs with a last-second tip-in at the Rose Garden on Friday night.

    The Trail Blazers look to build off that win when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (47-24) at Oklahoma City Arena on Sunday. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 PM.

    Projected to start for the Trail Blazers are Nicolas Batum, Gerald Wallace, LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Andre Miller.

    Portland heads into Oklahoma City with momentum after defeating the NBA-leading Spurs. The Trail Blazers did so defensively, with Miller and Matthews coming up with clutch steals to fuel a late comeback - a 20-8 rally to close the game, including a Miller alley-oop to Batum at the buzzer that sealed the victory.

    Batum tallied four points in the last 0.9 seconds, finishing with 21 for the game and leading the Trail Blazers to their sixth straight home win and a season-best 12 games over .500. Miller put up 21 points to go along with eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. Wallace posted 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Matthews and Aldridge notched 15 and 14 points, respectively.

    The Spurs shot better than 51 percent for the game, but Portland hounded its opponent for 19 turnovers and converted them into 24 points. Not only that, but the Trail Blazers also held a 13-point edge in second-chance points while collecting 11 steals.

    The Thunder got a scare from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night before pulling away for a 111-103 win.

    Oklahoma City held a 74-58 advantage late in the third quarter and seemed to be running away with it, but Minnesota stormed back and evened things up at 82. Including back-to-back three-pointers by Kevin Durant to end the third, the Thunder used a 16-3 run in the final period to space themselves and put the game away.

    Durant finished with 23 points, while Russell Westbrook chipped in with 19 points and eight assists. Serge Ibaka added 12 points and 10 boards, as Oklahoma City shot 52.4 percent from the floor and outscored the Timberwolves 58-46 in the paint and 22-6 in transition.

    With the win, the Thunder moved to 11-2 in March, but they take on a Trail Blazer team that has won five of its last six contests.

    In two games against Thunder, Portland has fallen by a combined score of three points, including a thrilling 110-108 finish in Oklahoma City on Nov. 12.

    Both Brandon Roy and Batum registered 20-point performances, finishing with 24 and 21 points, respectively. Miller had 19 points and 10 assists and Portland hit 53.9 percent of its shots, but the Thunder limited the Trail Blazers to just 3-for-10 shooting in the final 3:21 while making five of their six attempts.

    Westbrook put up a career-high 36 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, while Durant poured in 34 points.

    Portland is averaging 107 points per game so far in the series this season on 50 percent shooting, led by Roy's 21.5 points and Miller's 17.5 points and 10.5 assists. Westbrook and Durant have paced the Thunder against the Trail Blazers, averaging 32 and 31 points, respectively. Westbrook has also recorded nine rebounds and six assists per game.

    Greg Oden and Elliot Williams will be unavailable for Portland due to knee injuries.

    Sunday's showdown can be heard on 95.5 FM The Game with Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey, while Mike Barrett and Mike Rice will have the call on KGW NewsChannel 8. Portland and Oklahoma City will also be on the national stage, as ESPN will televise the game.

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