• Oklahoma City will be without starting center Kendrick Perkins (hamstring) and sixth man Kevin Martin (back). Hasheem Thabeet, who spent the second half last season with Portland, will start for Perkins. Martin and Perkins “will be missed, but our other guys are going to step up and play tonight,” coach Scottie Brooks said. “We’ll find minutes for Ronnie Brewer and some of the other guys. They’re ready to play and are excited about the opportunity.”
  • How does Perkins and Martin being out affect Portland’s game plan? “They still have (Russell) Westbrook and (Kevin) Durant, so it doesn’t change a lot,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Those are the two keys. (Nick) Collison and (Serge) Ibaka do a great job protecting the paint. it affects their depth, but they’re still pretty good.”
  • Portland will be minus two starters — shooting guard Wesley Matthews (ankle) and small forward Nicolas Batum (shoulder). Rookies Will Barton and Victor Claver will get the starting nod in their place.
  • The Thunder can guarantee themselves homecourt advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs by winning out against non-playoff opponents Portland and Sacramento and Milwaukee (37-41), the latter ticketed for eighth place in the East. “We would love to have it,” Brooks said. “Any time you can have an extra home game in a series its important, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll move on. We just want to play well down the stretch. We have an opportunity to get (homecourt advantage), but when you look at it that way, it becomes overwhelming and you can put yourself in a bad position. We’re focused on each game.”
  • Portland is on an eight-game losing streak, its longest since late in the 2005-06 season. If the Blazers lose tonight, it will be a franchise-record seventh straight home defeat. “They still have pride, they want to play well on their homecourt, they want to snap their losing streak,” Brooks said. “We have to approach this game like we approached all the other games we’ve played” of late.
  • Brooks on Portland rookie point guard Damian Lillard, who went for a season-high 38 points in Wednesday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers: “He has the composure of a guy who has been in the league for seven or eight years. Nothing seems to rattle him. He had a great first month and it seems like each month he’s played a little bit better. He’s obviously going to win the Rookie of the Year.”

Kerry Eggers

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.