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- Oklahoma City power forward Serge Ibaka, who suffered a chest contusion in Friday’s win over the L.A. Lakers at Staples Center, will miss tonight’s game. Nick Collison will start in his place.
- Coach Scott Brooks said the Thunder are also likely to go small, with Kevin Durant — who had 17 rebounds in OKC’s 106-92 win over Portland on Nov. 2 — sliding to the 4-spot and Kevin Martin getting more time with the first unit. “We need that extra [big] body in there to start,” Brooks said, “and then we’ll see how the game goes along and how we’re playing. But we do have the opportunity to play [Durant] at the 4.” Ibaka “has an impact on the game,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He rebounds, he blocks shots, he changes the game. Scott has to make some decisions on how to divvy up those minutes, but it doesn’t change our game plan that much.”
- Portland launched a franchise-record 43 attempts from 3-point land in Friday’s 103-97 loss at Golden State, making 15. Too many attempts from beyond the arc? “In that game, no,” Stotts said. “In the second half, we were 11-for-22. I’ll take that all day. I don’t go into a game saying we’ll shoot 43 3s, but there weren’t too many bad ones. I want our guys to have the confidence to shoot them. We wouldn’t have made it a game if we hadn’t shot all those 3s.” Brooks said defending the 3 is a big deal against the Blazers. “They shoot 24 a game,” the OKC coach said. “If you’re not ready to guard the 3-point line, they’ll put points on the board in a hurry. Taking away the 3-ball is very important along with making sure we get defensive rebounds. We don’t want to give them extra possessions.”
- Stotts said 6-foot-5 guard Wesley Matthews will get time defending both the 6-9 Durant and 6-3 Russell Westbrook. “Wes will have his shot at Durant and probably Westbrook, and so will Nicolas (Batum),” the Portland coach said. “We have to change things up. It takes great energy to guard great players, and we want to give them different looks.”
- Brooks gushed about Portland point guard Damian Lillard, who bombed in a season-high 37 points Friday night. “Is he really a rookie?” the OKC coach asked rhetorically. “He plays like he’s a six- or seven-year veteran. He has great poise. He controls the game. He figures out what the game needs and he gives it to his team. He’s a tremendous 3-point shooter. … Usually it takes a couple of years to acquire a great pick-and-roll game, but he already has that. His teammates seem to really enjoy playing along with him. That says a lot about a rookie in this league. Very rarely do you come in and enjoy the respect of your teammates right off the bat. It tells you he has high character, great work ethic and the skill set to lead them. He has a chance to be one of the top point guards in the league.”
— Kerry Eggers