Trail Blazers vs Thunder Friday, 04/01/11 AT 07:00PM

Trail Blazers Look To Avoid Sweep, Build Momentum

03/31/11
  1. Written by: Grant Lucas  / avg. rating: 4.0

    Although the season series isn't in their favor, the Portland Trail Blazers (43-32) will battle for playoff positioning and build momentum for the season's final push when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (50-24) on Friday night at the Rose Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM.

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

    The Trail Blazers lost the Western Conference's sixth spot when they fell 95-91 to the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night. Both teams hold identical records, but with the win, the Hornets hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by virture of a 3-1 record against Portland.

    In that game, Aldridge registered game-highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds, but the Hornets made up for it with 10 extra made free throws in the game as well as forcing nine second-half turnovers resulting in 11 points.

    Miller chipped in with 19 points and five assists, Wallace added 14 points and 10 boards and Patty Mills provided bench support with 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting.

    Oklahoma City comes off a 116-98 win against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, marking the Thunder's 14th win in March - tying the franchise record for victories in a month.

    Kevin Durant and James Harden each notched 22 points for the Thunder, sinking three three-pointers apiece, as Oklahoma City shot 53.2 percent from the floor and outscored the Suns 37-25 in the fourth. Russell Westbrook had 16 points and eight assists, while Serge Ibaka put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks.

    Leading 89-80 midway through the final quarter, the Thunder created extra comfort room with a 13-2 spurt that put the game away.

    The Thunder have taken the first three games of the regular season series from the Trail Blazers by an average of four points. Their largest margin of victory came on March 27 in Oklahoma City, where Westbrook came alive in the final period, pouring in 14 fourth-quarter points on 3-for-3 shooting from three-point range en route to a 28-point performance and a 99-90 Thunder win.

    Durant added 21 points, but finished 5-for-18 from the field and tallied just six points in the second half. Serge Ibaka rounded out the scoring load for Oklahoma City with 18 points and eight rebounds.

    Wallace paced Portland with a season-high 40 points and seven boards, while Aldridge posted 20 points and seven rebounds. Miller finished with nine points, eight assists and six boards, as the Trail Blazers overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to knot things up at 82 midway through the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma City closed the game on a 17-8 run to seal the win.

    Portland has won six out of the last eight meetings against the Thunder at the Rose Garden, but Westbrook is averaging 30.7 points and 8.3 assists against the Trail Blazers this season, compared to the 14.7 points and 8.7 assists by Miller.

    Durant has poured in more than 27 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots per game, while Aldridge has responded with 17.3 points and 5.3 boards per contest.

    Brandon Roy averaged 21.5 points per game in the first two matchups with Oklahoma City this year, but finished with four points in a little more than 12 minutes of action on Sunday.

    With three victories against Portland this season, the Thunder captured their first season series win over the Trail Blazers since 2005-06.

    Out for the Trail Blazers are Greg Oden and Elliot Williams, who are sidelined with knee injuries.

    Mike Barrett and Mike Rice will have the play-by-play on Comcast SportsNet for Friday's game, while Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey will have the call on 95.5 FM The Game.

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