Portland Trail Blazers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder 2019 NBA Playoffs: Starting Lineups, Matchups, Preview, Schedule
Portland Trail Blazers (3) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (6)
The No. 3 seeded Portland Trail Blazers (53-29) take on the No. 6 seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (49-33) in a first-round playoff series that could feature a great deal of action from both sides. Usually, a No. 6 seed never poses a threat to upset the No. 3 seed, but this season poses a different scenario. The Thunder were the only team to earn four wins against the Blazers and had the West’s best point differential per 100 possessions (plus-6.6) against Portland. Even though Oklahoma City swept the regular season series, all four games were tight with Portland never losing by more than 10 points.
Portland is also currently dealing with a host of injuries, giving Oklahoma City a huge advantage in the series. Even though the first two games will be held in Portland, the combo of Paul George and Russell Westbrook could prove to be too much for a depleted Portland team. Oklahoma City was one of the Western Conference more talented teams for the majority of the season but fell in the standings after losing four consecutive games late in the year. With the additions of Dennis Schroder and Nerlens Noel to the bench. The Thunder have the depth to make a deep postseason run and could easily upset Portland.
Portland definitely had a ton of potential late in the year before losing Jusuf Nurkic for the remainder of the season. They will now have to rely on their stellar backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum to carry the scoring load as they have done in years past. Portland’s offense thrives off field goal attempts and efficient three-point shooting. Oklahoma City has been middle of the pack at limiting three-point attempts, and three-point percentage allowed. The Thunder know they have to watch the Blazers at the arc, as their rangy and mobile defenders present potential problems for Portland’s shooters.
Series TV Schedule
Game 1: Sun, April 14 Oklahoma City at Portland, 3:30 ET, ABC
Game 2: Tues, April 16 Oklahoma City at Portland, 10:30 ET, TNT
Game 3: Fri, April 19 Portland at Oklahoma City, 9:30 ET, ESPN
Game 4: Sun, April 21 Portland at Oklahoma City, 9:30 ET, TNT
Games 5-7 TBD if necessary
Portland Trail Blazers Starting Lineup
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
Key Player Matchups
PG: Damian Lillard vs. Russell Westbrook
Even Edge. Lillard posted his highest scoring average against a West opponent (34.8) and exploded for a season-high 51 points in an overtime loss on March 7. Westbrook averaged 29.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 8.8 assists in the four games. He shot 43.2 percent from the field and 35.0 percent from 3-point range. And when two of the league’s elite point guards and big game performers get the opportunity to square up in a playoff series, fireworks should be expected. Westbrook primarily defended Lillard in all four games, with Lillard scoring 51 points in the March 7 (overtime) meeting, the second most scored against Oklahoma City this season.
SG – C.J. McCollum vs. Terrance Ferguson
Edge to Portland. In McCollum’s four games against Oklahoma City this season, he’s shot only 35.8%, including 18% from mid-range. McCollum will be defended by George primarily, with Stotts utilizing off ball screens to hopefully get Ferguson or Grant switched onto McCollum. Ferguson had the fifth lowest rate among 230 players who averaged at least 20 minutes and 40 games. While McCollum was one of three players to shoot better than 50 percent on at least 200 mid-range attempts.
SF – Moe Harkless vs. Paul George
Massive Edge to Oklahoma City. George is one of the best players in the league averaging 38 points per game against Portland this season, the highest scoring average against any NBA opponent. The 47 points George had on Feb. 11 were also the most scored in a game against the Blazers this season. Portland is not a great defensive team, but they certainly cannot give up huge games to George if they plan on winning the series. Harkless closed out the season strong for Portland, but he isn’t an MVP candidate like George. George also had his least effective against Portland this season, when Harkless has been much healthier. George is currently dealing with some shoulder pain
PF – Al-Farouq Aminu vs. Jerami Grant
Edge Oklahoma City. Aminu has shot 36% from three when Portland wins, but that dipped to 22.2% in the four games versus Oklahoma City this season. Jerami Grant has been a nice Swiss army knife for Oklahoma City showing good finishing ability and improved three-point shooting. Paul George told reporters he believes Grant will be the X Factor for OKC to win this series.
C – Enes Kanter vs. Steven Adams
Edge Oklahoma City. An old battle between old teammates once called the “stache” brothers. Kanter told reporters, “We used to go against each other in practice almost every day. He knows my game; I know his game. It’s going to be a pretty good matchup.” Should be interesting to watch, but I’ll go with Steven Adams who’s historically had a more productive career.
Coach: Terry Stotts vs. Billy Donovan
Slight edge Portland. I think Stotts deserves a ton of credit as this team wasn’t predicted to be in the playoffs before the season started. Going out and getting the third seed shows this team is united while being able to adjust well. Even though Billy Donovan won championships in college, Thunder fans are waiting to see a deeper playoff run since the departure of Kevin Durant.
Edge Portland. OKC Thunder is second to last in the league on bench minutes per game. Meaning they might not be fully prepared for a seven-game series without the consistent experience of rotation on the court. Portland’s bench spends quite a bit of time on the court, and rank No. 9 in the league averaging 19 minutes per game. That’s only about 3 minutes more than OKC, but in game minutes that’s a wide gap.
Rodney Hood – Hood gives Portland much-needed creativity on the wing. With Oklahoma City’s focus on stopping Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the perimeter, Hood could make them pay by hitting some open threes, especially if they choose to double. His percentages haven’t been great since arriving from Cleveland at the trade deadline, but Hood’s diverse skill set on the perimeter will give the Blazers options during cold streaks.
Russell Westbrook – Westbrook haseventh-besth best scoring average vs. Portland with 29.5 per game, while recording triple-doubles in two of the four meetings. Westbrook has been a 32% shooter from mid-range this season, but shot 42 percent from mid-range in his four games against Portland. If he could play complementary to Paul George instead of trying to be the hero, then Oklahoma City should a much scarier team.
Thunder in 7. One of the toughest matchups to pick. The Blazers have one of the best starting backcourts in the league, and as well as Enes Kanter is doing in Nurkic’s loss, it’s going to be tough dealing with two players that can regularly produce triple-doubles. OKC got hot at the end of the season and that momentum should carry them forward.
For more predictions on this and every series, visit our 2019 NBA Playoff Prediction Roundup.
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