Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE
The Oklahoma City Thunder face a Portland Trail Blazers team that has protected its home court with stellar defense of late. Can Kevin Durant and company break it down?
The Portland Trail Blazers are sneaking up on the competition. A winning record of 20-16 has been heavily aided by the team's nine-game home winning streak at the Rose Garden, but on Sunday night, upholding the streak will be a stiff challenge.
Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder visit Portland with the highest-scoring offense in the NBA, and either that or the Blazers' aggressive home defense will break. During Portland's home winning streak, the Blazers have allowed more than 94 points per game just once thanks to sound perimeter defense.
Who wins the tempo battle?
This game could very well come down to the pace. The Trail Blazers' defense relies upon a controlled tempo that ranks 23rd in the NBA at 90.8 possessions per 48 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Meanwhile, the Thunder will look to push the pace to help their No. 1 overall offense; Oklahoma City is eighth in the NBA in pace.
Winning the turnover margin will be key for Portland to keep the Thunder out of transition and out of the fastbreak, as Oklahoma City leads the NBA in points off turnovers and fastbreak points per game.
Point guard Damian Lillard will have that pressure upon his shoulders. The rookie is in the top five in usage rate by starting point guards, according to Basketball-Reference.com, and that has led to 3.1 turnovers per game.
He'll face Westbrook, who likewise is a heavily used player with turnover issues at 3.4 per outing. Both players are coming off big games. Westbrook scored 27 points and dropped 10 dimes against the Lakers on Friday, and Lillard scored a career-high 37 in a loss to Golden State.
A tale of two bench units
One of Portland's biggest concerns has been its bench. While LaMarcus Aldridge (20.2 points per game), Lillard (18.5 points per game) and Nicolas Batum (16.6 points per game) give the Blazers a heavy dose of offense, and fellow starters Wesley Matthews (15.5) and J.J. Hickson (12.2) aren't too shabby themselves, the bench unit provides little offense.
Rookie center Meyers Leonard leads the bench in scoring with 4.7 points per game, but he's out with a sprained ankle, according to OregonLive.com. Portland's next four top scorers don't equal Martin's 15.3 points off the bench.
Time: 9 p.m. ET