Oklahoma City at Portland
Time: 9 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: POR -4.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Portland Trail Blazers have won five-straight and seven of its past 10 to surge up to the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. It now hosts visiting Oklahoma City as 4.5-point favorites in Saturday night NBA action on NBA League Pass.
The Thunder has won three-straight and are currently tied with Portland in the standings, but seeded No. 5 due to tie-breakers. Tonight’s game represents a huge chance for both teams to secure that No. 3 seed, which as of today would draw yet another team tied in the standings, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Western Conference seeding will be interesting to watch going down this season’s stretch.
Portland has been getting some real superstar play from 2-guard C.J. McCollum.
While Damian Lillard is having an outstanding season, it was McCollum scoring 50 points in just 29 minutes of play for his second career 50-point game. McCollum is averaging 19.7 points and 2.5 assists over his past 10 games, and this season against OKC he has averaged 24.5 points and four assists in the teams’ two meetings.
Portland is 36-26 and currently has a No. 6 ranked defense with a defensive rating of 106.6
Its offense ranks No. 13 with a rating of 108.4. The Blazers have one of the strongest backcourts in the Association, but it has issues with depth, particularly in the frontcourt behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Meyers Leonard shows flashes but is a defensive liability, and rookie Zach Collins is not yet ready, either. Lack of depth and perhaps need for yet another perimeter stud caps Portland’s potential and makes them a likely first round out to a 3 or 4 seed in any showdown.
Nurkic was an upgrade over the departed Mason Plumlee, but he still is unable to play massive amounts of minutes and the Blazers struggle when he is on the pine. McCollum has emerged as a legitimate second star alongside Lillard, but the Blazers still seem a man short. Perhaps Carmelo Anthony even would have been better suited in the Northwest, but until the Blazers get Lillard another perimeter star and some depth behind Nurkic, they will likely even fall short against legitimate Eastern Conference playoff foes like tonight’s Pistons draw.
OKC is 21-10 at home this season, but it has won 7 of 10 SU.
Still, at 37-27, Oklahoma City is in the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference and it seems their best ball still could be in front of them as a team. The only reason to say that is that there is still so much talent in its main trio of players: Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony.
Carmelo Anthony has adapted now to a tertiary role on the team, with Paul George and Russell Westbrook doing the heavy offensive-lifting. Anthony still averages 17.4 points and six rebounds per game, but he does so in “just” 32.7 minutes a night, while George and Westbrook play 36-plus respectively. Steven Adams is making a strong impact on the interior as one of the most underrated 5-men in the Association, and his 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds do precious little justice to what an impact he has as the main defensive piece in OKC’s strong defensive attack.
Veteran Andre Roberson provides similar role at the tune of 26.6 minutes of tough defense per game, while Terrence Ferguson has looked promising a rookie in his spot minutes (and 11 starts!). Ferguson becomes crucial with Roberson possibly out for the season due to injury.
The Thunder quietly have built some depth on its roster, and Raymond Felton still serves as a good spark in the second unit, along with small forward Jerami Grant, who has averaged 7.5 points per game in his 52 appearances this year. Roberson is out for the year, and that is a huge blow to OKC.
The Thunder seems to have just enough firepower and just enough depth to be a top-5 team in the West, but do they have enough to contend with Golden State and Houston?