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Oklahoma Defeats Memphis, Portland Readies for Playoffs After Three-Year Absence

On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder grabbed their first playoff win in its series against the Memphis Grizzlies, 100-86.

Once again the team’s MVP was Kevin Durant, who scored 33 points (13 in the fourth quarter as well as eight rebounds for the game) and helped shoot down the Grizzlies’ attempts to make a comeback after a 25-point hole. The team entered halftime down 22 points and came back within two points with 8:45 remaining in the game. Durant said not so fast, scoring 11 points of a 13-1 team run in five-plus minutes to give the Thunder a 14-point advantage.

Russell Westbrook added 23 points with 10 rebounds while Serge Ibaka contributed 17 points and nine rebounds.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant

Durant said of the game via the Associated Press, “We just stayed together. We made plays in the fourth quarter. The third quarter was tough for us, but we stayed together. We didn’t stray away.”

For Memphis, Zach Randolph led the team in scoring with his 21 points and 11 rebounds, but he struggled with fouls and shooting (seven of 21 shots) in the game’s second half. Mike Conley added 16 points with 11 assists while Marc Gasol contributed 16 points and Tony Allen scored 13 points.

Game 2 is on Monday. Memphis will hope to have a better night of first-half shooting as they only made 12-of-48 shots from the field and a franchise-low field goal percentage of 25%.

It’s too early for Vegas to pick a winner for the second game but for the 2014 NBA Championship, the Thunder have 15/4 odds to win it while the Grizzlies are 75/1.

No. 5 Portland vs. No. 4  Houston

In the battle of two 54-game winning teams, Houston (54-28) vs. Portland (54-28), Sunday’s playoff game No. 1 represents a first for the Trail Blazers in the postseason since 2011. For them, it will be a mixed bag for its players’ postseason experience.

LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum are Portland’s playoff veterans while sophomore Damian Lillard is one of the green players. But he is trying not to make too much of it, saying via the Associated Press, “I’m just going to try to go into it and play it like another basketball game and not put too much pressure on the fact that it’s my first playoff game or that we’re on the road or all those other things.”

Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard

Houston may have the postseason experience advantage (a 2013 appearance) but aside from that, the two teams are very similar. According to Sports Illustrated, they both will bring two All-Stars (Rockets’ James Harden and Dwight Howard against Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard). Harden is No. 5 in the league for scoring thanks to his 25.4 points per game, while Howard, playing in his seventh postseason, has an 18.3 point average with 12.2 rebounds per game.

Meanwhile, the teams also sit in the top five for their offenses, the top 10 for paces of play and for 3-point attempts, they’re in the top 3.

But one difference is the Blazers rank No. 3 in turnover percentage and No. 30 in opponent turnover percentage while the Rockets paint an opposite picture: a No. 29 ranking in turnover percentage and No. 28 in opponent turnover percentage. In other words it could be a defensive vs. offensive battle regarding turnovers.

For the Trail Blazers, history is not on their side for the playoffs. In the last six playoff visits, they haven’t made it past the first round. As for making it to a coveted second round (where they lost), that drought extends to 2000 in the Western Conference finals. Regardless of the dry spell, Aldridge has said he is motivated.

With experience on its side, Houston has playoff expectations, desiring to go past the first round.

The team will win the first game (-5.5, 214.5 o/u) and has 18/1 odds to win it all while Portland has 40/1 odds to do so.







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