No Nurkic, no problem. Third-seeded Portland Trail Blazers have taken a commanding 2-0 lead in the Western Conference playoffs over sixth-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder despite losing starting center Jusuf Nurkic for the season in March. Nurkic has been the Blazers’ second-best player this season, after Damian Lillard.
The Thunder will get a chance to make this a competitive series in Game 3 as the series shifts to Oklahoma City on Friday (8pm ET).
The main thing OKC has lacked in the two losses is shooting. Portland has a much more dynamic offensive attack with the threat of both outside shooting and inside scoring. That has been impossible for the Thunder to overcome.
Let’s break down some important questions that will determine whether Portland can keep outplaying Oklahoma City. We will end the preview with some advice on your betting options as part of our Portland Trail Blazers vs OKC Game 3 predictions.
Will the Blazers Keep Asserting Their Three-Point Advantage?
One stat really does a lot to explain the narrative of this series so far:
- Trail Blazers: 24-of-57 from three-point range (42.1 percent)
- Thunder: 10-of-61 from three-point range (16.4 percent)
The Trail Blazers have shot better than average on their outside looks so far, but mainly, the Thunder have been way worse. OKC is known as one of the league’s weaker shooting teams, but that doesn’t excuse them going this cold over the last two games. Plus, the Thunder went 65-of-158 (41.1 percent) from downtown over their last four games of the regular season, so it is a bit surprising that they have regressed so much.
While the Trail Blazers have this edge, they need to keep taking advantage. They need to shoot confidently from behind the arc when they are open, draw up plays for shooters and play lineups that can really stroke it from deep.
Will Dennis Schroder Be Able to Penetrate Consistently?
Schroder has had a rough second half of the season for the Thunder and has continued his subpar play in the first two games of the series against the Trail Blazers. He has just 18 points and five assists in the two games combined, and he is only shooting 7-of-22 from the field and 0-of-8 from three-point range.
In general, Schroder relies too much on his suspect jumper, rather than using his elite quickness to get to the rim. The Trail Blazers don’t have the perimeter defenders with the speed to contain him, but Schroder has failed to take advantage.
Schroder getting to the basket more frequently would have several benefits. First, he would be more efficient. However, he could also get Portland’s big men into foul trouble and create more open outside looks for teammates since he would collapse the defense.
Will the Thunder More Consistently Attack Enes Kanter?
The fact that Kanter is starting for the Trail Blazers is definitely their Plan B. Their normal starter is Jusuf Nurkic, but he suffered a major leg injury in late March.
Kanter’s big Game 1 (20 points, 18 rebounds and two blocks) was the X-factor in the Blazers’ five-point win. He was able to play 34 minutes while only fouling once. That was the first time all season the Turkish big man had played that many minutes while fouling that little.
OKC did a bit better job going at Kanter’s poor defense in Game 2. He was an early foul trouble and ended up with 20 minutes played. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement there. The Thunder aren’t running pick-and-roll against him nearly enough and they aren’t using Steven Adams enough on offense, whether it is on the post or other situations.
If OKC can play offense in a way that makes Kanter a liability, he won’t be able to hurt the Thunder with his inside scoring and rebounding.
Our Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers vs OKC Game 3 Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
Everything we have seen so far in this series contradicts this point, but the Thunder do have more healthy talent than the Blazers. Russell Westbrook and Paul George haven’t played well simultaneously for OKC and the Thunder are at least a little bit better at shooting than they have showed.
Desperation will set in here for the Thunder. The Blazers may face an inevitable letdown in effort after overperforming in their home games. So this is how this preview thinks the Portland Trail Blazers vs OKC predictions should be:
- The Thunder are a 7.5-point favorite at home with the trusted and legal sports gambling sites. I suggest betting on the Thunder -7.5pts @ -110 with any of Bovada, Intertops, BetOnline or Bookmaker
- I do expect improved shooting for the Thunder at home, but the Blazers, especially their role players, could also shoot worse. The average total points for this series’ first two games is 205.5, so this game’s projected total of 221.5 seems pretty high. The smart move is betting the under 221.5pts @ -110 with Bovada, Bookmaker or Intertops.