OKC vs. POR Preview – Up Tempo Game Tonight

Tonight at Chesapeake Energy Arena, one of the NBA’s best defenses will square off against one of the league’s best offenses, but both the Thunder and the Portland Trail Blazers will be looking to push the pace, in their own ways.

The Thunder’s objective on the defensive end is to slow teams down, force them into contested two-point jumpers beyond 15-feet and to make them have to execute against a set five-man defense. The key for the Thunder against the league’s highest scoring offense, and one of the premier three-point shooting squads, will be to stay locked in for the entire 24 second shot clock.

From a defensive standpoint, as veteran leader Nick Collison described, it will be important for the Thunder not to have any mental or physical lapses, because that is when Portland will strike. With shooters like Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and Damian Lillard, the Thunder has to be wary of sharpshooting from long range at all times.

On top of that, the pick-and-roll game with big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez creates dangerous dives to the rim, which result in layups or foul shots. It will be essential for the Thunder to be physical at all five positions, then close out possessions by contesting shots and grabbing rebounds.

“You have to be really focused for the whole possession,” Collison explained. “The times when you relax is when they drive and kick to an open shooter or you get hit with a flare screen for an open shooter. Mentally you have to be on for the whole possession.”

“They are a team that if you let down, they’ll take advantage of it,” Collison said. “They hit a lot of threes and play up tempo. They can go on runs. For us, we want to avoid that bad stretch tonight.”

On attack, the Thunder is hoping to turn defense into offense by getting stops, forcing turnovers and then running in transition. When fast break opportunities aren’t there, the Thunder wants to get all five men down court and involved in the secondary break, where the team can operate against a defense that isn’t settled. When forced to play in the halfcourt, the Thunder wants to run its sets hard and quickly to keep the defense moving and on its heels.

“We need to play with pace,” Collison explained. “The faster we play, the better we play. That’s not always taking shots in transition, but sometimes it’s the secondary break flowing into our offense. When the ball moves, the ball finds the shot, instead of trying to force feed it to guys and having them make a play.”

In the Notes:

- The Thunder is 0-2 against the Blazers this season, and overall is 12-10 against Portland in the regular season.

- The Thunder is 18-6 this season when Kevin Durant scores 30-or-more points in a game, which he has done in seven straight games.

- The Thunder is 19-1 when it registers the same number or more assists than its opponent compared to 12-9 when it dishes out fewer assists.

Broadcast Info:

7:00 p.m. CT. TV – Fox Sports Oklahoma; Radio – 98.1 FM The Sports Animal, Thunder Radio Network