The Portland Trail Blazers are looking for their fifth-straight victory when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder (11-15) Tuesday night.
This will be the second meeting between the Trail Blazers and Thunder during the 2020-21 season. The final matchup will come during the Second Half of the season.
OKC leads the season series, 1-0, after beating Portland 122-125 on January 25 at Moda Center.
In the loss, Damian Lillard led the way with 26 points to go along with six rebounds and 10 assists, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander paced Oklahoma City with 24 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
The Blazers will have 10 healthy players available for Tuesday’s game.
Portland has listed Harry Giles (left calf strain), Rodney Hood (left foot sprain), CJ McCollum (left midfoot fracture), Jusuf Nurkic (right wrist fracture) and Zach Collins (left ankle stress fracture) as out.
For the Thunder, Trevor Ariza (not with team), Moses Brown (G League - two-way), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (left knee; sprain), Josh Hall (G League, two-way), George Hill (right thumb; procedure), Ty Jerome (G League - two-way), Theo Maledon (health and safety protocols) and Aleksej Pokusevski (G League - on assignment) are out.
[RELATED]: Harry Giles suffers left calf strain, ruled out for Tuesday's game at Oklahoma City Ahead of Tuesday’s contest, our Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes examined Portland’s defensive improvements:
The Trail Blazers are playing much better of late. And the six wins in their last seven games seems to indicate an improvement at the defensive end.
And that’s the case.
Now, keep in mind that the team’s offense has been on a tear, with three-pointers coming from all directions. The defense has not had to be perfect, or anything close to that.
But the defensive rating over the last seven games would rank as 16th in the league. Not enough to bring up the overall ranking of No. 29, but a big improvement and probably good enough, as we’ve seen, to sustain a team ranked sixth in offense.
The Trail Blazers’ most decorated defensive player, Robert Covington, was asked to explain the improvement after Sunday night’s win at Dallas.
“The biggest thing is trusting one another,” Covington said. “Our communication has gotten a lot better. We've done a great job of, you know, really emphasizing our defensive principles and really making a commitment.”
And without a lot of time to practice, the Trail Blazers have had to learn their new defense on the fly, game by game.
“The things we do have time to drill, these things we did very well,” Covington said. “But with having really no practices like that, you know, it's hard. So really, our repetitions are in the games, and we've gotten better and we hold each other accountable.
“That's the biggest thing we've been doing, is holding each other accountable. And we've responded very well.”
And a big asset has been a total team buy-in. The non-starters have shown a lot of energy and willingness to sell out at the defensive end.
Read more here.
The Blazers are -5 point favorites against the Thunder, odds provided by our partner PointsBet.
Here’s what you need to know about Tuesday’s matchup --
- Damian Lillard has scored at least 20 points in 15 straight games against Oklahoma City, and recorded a career-high 18 made free-throws against the Thunder on March 7, 2019.
- Carmelo Anthony added 22 points (9-21 FG, 1-6 3-PT, 3-4 FT), six rebounds, one assist and two blocks in 35 minutes on Jan. 25. Anthony recorded a career-high 11 assists vs. the Thunder on Feb. 4, 2009 while with the Nuggets.
- Gary Trent Jr. had 22 points (9-17 FG, 4-9 3-PT), one rebound and two steals against the Thunder on Jan. 25.
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has averaged 17.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in nine career games against the Trail Blazers. Tuesday's game will be his 10th against Portland, tied for his most against any NBA team (LAL).
- Mike Muscala scored a season-high 23 points (8-12 FG, 6-10 3-PT, 1-2 FT) to go with two rebounds and one steal against Portland on Jan. 25. He was one point off of his career-high in scoring (24, 3/28/18 vs. MIN).
POINT SPREAD: -- Trail Blazers: -5 (-115) – Thunder: +5 (-105)
HOW TO WATCH:
When: Tuesday, February16
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena | Oklahoma City, OK
Start time: 5:00 p.m. PT
TV channel: NBCSNW, the official network of the Portland Trail Blazers
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