Breaking down Blazers vs. Thunder by position
Point guard battle: Lillard vs. Westbrook
Damian Lillard’s season averages vs. Thunder:
34.8 points, 7.8 assists, and 5.4 rebounds
Russell Westbrook’ season averages vs. Blazers:
29.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists
All eyes will be on the point guard matchup especially after this season series got heated between Lillard and Westbrook.
“It’s weird because me and him are actually real cool, once we get off the court… But then there’s just something about it, when you get on the court. He's one of the top point guards in the league and so am I,” Lillard said after Friday’s practice.
Shooting guard competition: McCollum vs. Ferguson
CJ McCollum’s season averages vs. Thunder:
19.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists
Terrance Ferguson’s season averages vs. Blazers:
7.8 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 0.3 assists
Something to keep an eye on: Ferguson averaged 4.8 personal fouls against Portland this season.
“I always feel like I have an advantage at the two. That’s how you have to be, you have to be confident in your abilities, and understand who you are as a player… I like our chances, and I like my chances every night,” McCollum said.
Competitive power forwards: Aminu and Grant
Al-Farouq Aminu’s season averages vs. Thunder:
10.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists
Jerami Grant’s season averages vs. Blazers:
11.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks
Aminu will be matched up against Paul George for a majority of the series with Maurice Harkless and Aminu switching between defending George and Grant.
Grant is a fly under the radar kind of guy, but PG13 said at the end of this season Grant could be a major piece to their success. “I’ve been preaching, he’s the X-factor,” George told the Oklahoman.
The focus at small forward: George and Harkless
Maurice Harkless’ season averages vs. Thunder:
2.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.0 block
Paul George’s season averages vs. Blazers:
38.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.8 steals
The Blazers plan to have both Aminu and Harkless defend George at times and try to make it as tough as possible for him to get good clean looks.
“Obviously, you just try to throw different bodies at him so that you wear him down physically… He’s a great player, making it difficult on him is going to be a key to being successful,” Aminu said.
The Thunder have listed George as “day-to-day” with right shoulder soreness, but George said he expects to play in Game 1.
Big man battle: Kanter vs. Adams -- who knows each other's game move?
Enes Kanter’s season averages vs. Thunder:
11.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks
Steven Adams’ season averages vs. Blazers:
10.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks
The two big men know each other’s game very well after Kanter spent 2015-2017 as a member of the Thunder.
Kanter knows this will be a physical battle.
“Me and him used to go at each other a lot in practice. It wasn’t basketball, it was like wrestling. You could almost hear the bones cracking,” Kanter said with a smile.
“For their defense, I think he’s their backbone,” Kanter added.
Blazers' bench vs. Thunder second unit
Portland’s bench ended the season 18th in the league in scoring against other second units. The Blazers’ bench averaged 36 points, 17.6 rebounds, and 8.1 assists.
Lillard said after Friday’s matchup that he thinks backup big man Zach Collins will play a big role in the series, while Blazer head coach Terry Stotts feels Rodney Hood will be a huge factor on both ends of the floor.
OKC’s second unit ended the season ranked second to last in scoring in comparison to other benches with 30 points per game. The Thunder rotation players also averaged 13 rebounds and 5.6 assists this season.
The Clash of the coaches: Stotts vs. Donovan
In six seasons at the helm of the Blazers, head coach Terry Stotts has gone 11-24 in the playoffs.
Stotts has said multiple times that the playoffs this year will define his team’s season.
For Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, he has gone 14-15 in the playoffs in the past three seasons with OKC.
Oklahoma City proved it believes in Coach Donovan after exercising their fifth-year option on Donovan's contract last December.