NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, April 12th (All times eastern)
Oklahoma City Thunder (49-31) at Portland Trail Blazers (49-31), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - A playoff atmosphere is expected tonight in Portland when the Trail Blazers welcome fellow Western Conference contender Oklahoma City to the Rose Garden.
Aiming for the franchise's first 50-win season since finishing 52-30 in 2004-05 as the Seattle SuperSonics, the Thunder suffered a disastrous loss in Oakland last night when Monta Ellis returned from a seven-game absence with a bad case of the flu to score 15 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and lead the Golden State Warriors to a 120-117 comeback victory over Oklahoma City.
Kevin Durant scored 40 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out five assists but missed a potential game-tying three-pointer in the closing seconds for the Thunder, losers in three of their last four. Russell Westbrook chipped in 20 points and nine assists in the loss.
"We gave up 95 points in the last three quarters and they're going to win that game," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "I know our team very well. Can we beat a team that plays that fast? Absolutely, but it was their style."
The loss dropped Oklahoma City into a tie with the Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs for the bottom three seeds in the Western Conference but both of those teams hold tiebreakers over the Thunder as all three clubs try to avoid a first round matchup with the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
If the Spurs can defeat Western Conference-worst Minnesota on Monday and Oklahoma City loses to the Trail Blazers tonight, the Thunder will be locked into the eighth seed.
Oklahoma City hosts Memphis in its regular season finale on Wednesday.
The Blazers, meanwhile, helped their cause on Sunday with a hard-fought 91-88 win over the Lakers in LA despite being without All-Star guard Brandon Roy for much of the contest.
Martell Webster drilled three critical free throws with 3.1 seconds to play in that one and Portland's defense held off the Lakers' final attack in the victory at Staples Center.
LaMarcus Aldridge paced Portland with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Webster finished with 16 points in the Blazers' seventh win in nine games and first as the guest in this series since 2007.
Andre Miller added 15 points and seven assists, while Marcus Camby had 10 points and 17 boards.
"It was definitely hostile out there," Webster said. "That's the kind of atmosphere that will be there in the playoffs. There's a good chance we might be playing these guys in the first round."
Roy had only two points before sitting out the second half with a sore knee.
"We are hoping that it's not too serious," Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. "We decided to hold him out and get some X-rays."
04/12 10:35:52 ET