Playoff Clinch? – Portland Trail Blazers at Oklahoma City Thunder

Portland Trail Blazers AT Oklahoma City Thunder
Mar 27, 2011 at 8 PM EST
Opening Line:  OKC -5
Current Line:  OKC -4
Opening Total:  192.5
Current Total:  191
Opening Moneyline:  OKC -200 / Por +170
Current Moneyline:  OKC -175 / Por +155

No one expected Westbrook to be this good, this fast

Things are starting to come together at the right time for Oklahoma City.   They’ve won 8 of 9 and 11 of their last 13 and can clinch a playoff berth tonight with a victory over visiting Portland.  The Thunder have been getting contributions from everyone and Kendrick Perkins, an NBA champ with Boston, understands the importance of getting a team effort, especially in the playoffs:

“Going into the playoffs, I think we’re going to need everybody,” center Kendrick Perkins(notes) said. “Every night in the playoffs, there’s a certain guy that wins a game for you, that has a big night.  Whether it’s the first through the 10th man, everybody’s got to be ready because there’s just that one shot.”

Besides just clinching the playoff berth, the Thunder are also hoping to secure a divsion crown in the Northwest Division.  They haven’t won a division title since 2004-05, when the franchise was still known as the Seattle Supersonics.  Winning the division is important since it guarantees homecourt in the first round of the playoffs, and it is also important for bragging rights, though few players would outright admit that.

Some betting trends:

Portland is 5-1 SU in their last 6 games and they are 7-3 SU in their last 10 on the road.  Portland is 6-3 SU in their last 9 games against Oklahoma City.  The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Portland’s last 14 games against Oklahoma City and the total has also gone UNDER in 7 of the last 8 road games in Oklahoma  City.  Portland is 5-10 SU In their last 15 road games against the Thunder.

The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Oklahoma City’s last 8 games and they are 8-1 SU in their last 9 games.  Oklahoma City is 6-2-1 ATS in their last 9 games and the total has gone UNDER in 4 of their last 5 home games.  Oklahoma City is 6-1 SU in their last 7 at home and they are 2-3-1 ATS in their last 6 at home.  Oklahoma City is 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games against the Blazers and the total has gone UNDER in 10 of their last 14 games against the Blazers.  OKC is 3-6 SU in their last 9 against Portland and they are 10-5 SU in their last 15 home games against the Blazers.  Oklahoma City is 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games against Portland and the total has gone UNDER in 7 of the last 8 games at home against the Blazers.

Key Matchups:

Nicolas Batum vs. Kevin Durant

For as good of a defender as Batum supposedly is, it didn’t make much of a difference last time the teams met.  Durant torched Batum for 34 points in 40 minutes, shooting 13 of 21 from the floor.  And in the first meeting, the game before that, Durant went for 28 points in a one point overtime victory, as he shot 11 of 24 from the floor.  Batum, for all the talk of being a lockdown defender, should be able to hold Durant under 30, but he probably won’t.  There really aren’t any true lockdown defenders with the leagues rules as they are in today’s game and Durant has too many weapons at his disposal that make him a tough cover for even the best defenders.  Batum won’t provide a lot of resistance on the other end, though he is a decent scorer.  He shoots 45% from the floor and averages 12 points a game.  It’s pedestrian, but his primary role on Portland is not to be a scorer, but rather to stop other scorers.

Andre Miller vs. Russell Westbrook

Westbrook went absolutely nuts the last time these teams met, going for 36 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds.  His size, strength, and athleticism make him an extremely tough cover for Miller, who never has been all that quick and at age 35 is nearing the end of his NBA career.  Miller is still effective on offense, though, and he knows how to run a team.  He’s still averaging right on his career average for assists, 7.2 per game, and is capable on occasion of having a huge game (he scored 52 in a 2 point victory over Dallas on January 30th of LAST season).  Westbrook is clearly the future of point guards in the NBA, but can still learn a few things from Miller.  Expect Westbrook to get the best of this matchup, and it will probably be the difference maker in the game.

Oklahoma City is a superior team in terms of talent to the Blazers.  Portland has dealt with injuries and set backs all season and emerged as a battle tested team, but they simply don’t have an answer for Durant or Westbrook.  Most teams don’t.

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