The last time the Portland Trail Blazers and Thunder faced off, Oklahoma City cruised to a 62-point rout for its biggest win in franchise history.
The Thunder beat Portland 139-77 on Jan. 11, but rather than making history once again, Oklahoma City will just be looking to keep momentum on its side when the Blazers pay a visit on Tuesday night.
After that blowout victory, the Thunder have won three of their past five games, including their past two. They most recently beat the West-leading Minnesota Timberwolves 102-97 on Saturday, and Oklahoma City center Chet Holmgren doesn’t plan on taking Portland lightly even though it sits second-to-last in the conference standings.
“They’re understanding the effort that it’s gonna take to win against us,” Holmgren said, referring to the Timberwolves. “We have to have that same mentality every single night, knowing that teams are juiced up to play us. We can’t come out expecting to win any game, we have to make wins happen.”
The Thunder are 7-2 against the bottom five teams in the West entering Monday’s slate of games. That includes a 2-0 mark against the Trail Blazers.
Portland, meanwhile, is hoping it doesn’t end up on the sour end of history once again.
“It was almost like a perfect storm, to be honest with you,” Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said after the 62-point loss, which tied the fifth-largest margin of defeat in NBA history. “Nothing really worked for us.”
The Trail Blazers have lost their two meetings with Oklahoma City by an average of 52.5 points, with Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander recording his two lowest minute totals of the season in those games.
After combining to shoot 42.9 percent from the floor and attempting a total of 13 free throws in back-to-back losses against the Lakers and Clippers, Gilgeous-Alexander bounced back in wins over the Utah Jazz and Timberwolves.
Gilgeous-Alexander made 18 of 37 shots (48.6 percent) in the victories, also getting to the foul line 30 times. He scored 31 points against Utah and 33 vs. Minnesota.
“I know success is a rollercoaster,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’s not gonna be sunshine and rainbows 24/7. You’re gonna have ups and downs. I prepare for nights where I’m not making shots like I usually do.
“I know, to get to where I want to be as a player, there’s gonna be ups and downs and learning experiences.”
While Oklahoma City is on the upward trajectory, Portland is working through the rebuilding process.
The Blazers are coming off a 134-110 loss to the Lakers on Sunday.
Portland has lost eight of its past 11, with the losses coming by an average of 29.3 points.
The Blazers have been without guard Shaedon Sharpe for the past five games. Sharpe suffered a lower abdominal strain in the Jan. 11 loss to Oklahoma City.
Fellow Portland guard Malcolm Brogdon did not play in the most recent loss to the Thunder. In his past three games, Brogdon is averaging 23.0 points, 7.0 assists and 6.3 rebounds.
“Malcolm has been playing great,” Billups said. “He doesn’t have very many bad nights. We’re getting scoring out of him. We’re getting playmaking out of him.”
–Field Level Media
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