OKC Thunder notebook: Sliding Thunder faces revamped Portland Trail Blazers

The Oklahoma City Thunder has gone 4-4 recently, with three of those losses coming at Chesapeake Energy Arena. But the Thunder's next opponent has had some more tumultuous days lately.
BY JOHN ROHDE, Staff Writer, jrohde@opubco.com Published: March 17, 2012

The Thunder went into All-Star Weekend last month with a 27-7 record and riding a five-game streak.

OKC posted impressive back-to-back victories at Philadelphia and Orlando coming out of the break, but has since gone 4-4 with three of those losses coming at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Meanwhile, the Thunder's next opponent has had some tumultuous days lately.

Last Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers lost by 42 at New York (121-79).

On Thursday, they fired coach Nate McMillian, waived former No. 1 pick Greg Oden, traded away starters Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby and acquired guard Jonny Flynn, forward Mehmet Okur and center Hasheem Thabeet.

On Friday, Portland beat the team with the NBA's best record, winning 100-89 on the road against the Chicago Bulls, who were without reigning MVP Derrick Rose (strained groin). The Bulls shot 3 for 23 in the fourth quarter and were outscored 22-10.

"Just a special time for us as a team, as an organization, as a family," 34-year-old interim coach Kaleb Canales said after the win. "All the credit goes to the guys in that locker room for helping to get it. Obviously a special win with everything that's been going on. I'm very blessed and fortunate to get this great opportunity, very humbling."

Blazers forward Kurt Thomas is five years older than Canales. "Whenever you can see a young guy get an opportunity to be a head coach, you definitely want to go out there and get a win for him," Thomas said.

The Blazers (21-23) and Thunder (33-11) meet in The Peake on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. in a game shown on ESPN.

BOARD DOMINATION

San Antonio, which ranks just 15th in rebounding, dominated the boards 49-37 in its victory over OKC on Friday night and was led by 35-year-old Tim Duncan with a season-high 19. In the process, Duncan moved past Paul Silas and Dikembe Mutombo into 18th place on the NBA's career rebounding list.

The Spurs had 15 offensive rebounds, converted 10 of 14 shots off of those boards and outscored the Thunder 24-9 in second-chance points.

Despite also being outscored 54-36 in the paint, the OKC came back from a 27-point deficit and trailed 107-105 with one minute remaining. San Antonio scored the game's final seven points to win 114-105.

"In the second half they made their run," said Spurs forward DeJuan Blair, who scored 22 points, shot 11 for 15 from the field and had 11 rebounds (six offensive). "We didn't put our heads down. We just kept going and we got the win."

TOE THE LINES

In its last three games, two of which were losses, the Thunder has shot more 3-pointers than free throws (73-66). Against the Spurs, OKC was 18 for 20 (.900) from the line and 9 for 25 (.360) from 3-point range.

"Normally we don't get 20 free throws and take 25 threes," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We're more of an attack team to get to the free-throw line, but we probably settled for too many threes."

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Next five for Thunder

Sunday: vs. Portland, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN, FSOK) — Thunder lost its first home game this season to the Trail Blazers, but several names have changed since the trade deadline.

Tuesday: at Utah, 8 p.m. (FSOK) — Thunder swept back-to-back games against the Jazz on Feb. 10 and 14. Will try to make it a clean sweep in the season's final meeting.

Wednesday: vs. LA Clippers, 7 p.m. (FSOK) — Clippers posted convincing 112-100 victory on Jan. 30 at Staples Center, site of Blake Griffin's dunk over Kendrick Perkins.

Friday: vs. Minnesota, 7 p.m. (FSOK) — No Ricky Rubio for Timberwolves, but double-double machine Kevin Love faces former UCLA teammate Russell Westbrook.

Sunday: vs. Miami, 7 p.m. (ESPN, FSOK) — The fifth game in a one-week span for the Thunder, and it's capped by what could be a preview to this year's NBA Finals.

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