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News » Trail Blazers-Thunder Preview 2009-04-02

Trail Blazers-Thunder Preview 2009-04-02

Trail Blazers-Thunder Preview 2009-04-02
On the heels of three blowout victories in Portland, the Trail Blazers have made a surge for home-court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs. To continue that push, they're going to need to play with the same intensity away from home.

The Trail Blazers open a difficult four-game road trip Friday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are coming off a win over one of the league's best teams.

After opening a four-game homestand with a 114-108 overtime loss to Philadelphia on March 23, Portland (47-27) responded with easy victories over Utah, Memphis and Phoenix.

The Blazers entered Tuesday's game against the Jazz tied with them for second place in the Northwest Division. Portland proceeded to overwhelm Utah en route to a 125-104 victory.

The Blazers shot a season-high 61.6 percent from the field to win their third consecutive game by at least 20 points - the first time they've done that since March 24-28, 1992.

"That style of play we must bring to every game now down the stretch, and so far on this homestand we've done that - except for the Philadelphia game," Portland coach Nate McMillan said.

Brandon Roy had 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting and a season-high 11 assists Tuesday. He's averaging 24.0 points and hitting 60.9 percent from the field during the winning streak.

The Blazers, averaging 113.3 points on 54.7 percent shooting in their last three games, trail Houston by one-half game for the West's fourth seed and home-court advantage in the opening round.

Portland is in the thick of the playoff race thanks to its play at the Rose Garden, where it's won 16 of 18. Five of its final eight games are on the road, though.

This road trip could prove to be tough for the Blazers with games at Houston on Sunday, Memphis on Tuesday and Southwest Division-leading San Antonio the following night.

Although the Thunder (21-53) are one of the league's worst teams, the Blazers can't afford to overlook them.

Portland already has lost once in Oklahoma City - 102-93 on Feb. 6 - and the Thunder are coming off Tuesday's 96-95 victory over the Spurs.

Oklahoma City has three victories in its last 10 contests but two of them have been over San Antonio. The Thunder are 5-20 against the top eight teams in the West this season.

"We are a young team that is trying to get better and better each game," Thunder forward Jeff Green said. "We are just trying to win games and finish strong along with keep learning how to be a team. To beat a team like San Antonio, who is a powerhouse in the league, is a great win for us. We just need to finish strong so that we can carry some momentum over to next season."

Kevin Durant led Oklahoma City with 31 points Tuesday for his 20th 30-point outing of the season. He also had 31 in the win over Portland in February and the Thunder are 7-13 when last season's Rookie of the Year hits the 30-point mark.

Durant scored 20 in Oklahoma City's 106-92 loss in Portland on Feb. 11.

Author: Fox Sports
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Added: April 3, 2009


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