The Oklahoma City Thunder open their home doors Friday night against the young and rebuilding Portland Trailblazers at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Thunder started last season with a five game win streak, but that won’t be possible this year after they fell to the San Antonio Spurs 86-84 Thursday off of Tony Parker’s buzzer beater.
Forward Kevin Durant led all scorers with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals, and the Spurs earned some pay back from that defeat behind Tim Duncan’s 20 points and eight rebounds.
Durant also became the second youngest player to surpass the 10,000 career points mark. Miami’s LeBron James was the youngest to reach the milestone.
Despite outrebounding the Spurs and connecting on 41 percent of their 3-pointers, point guard Russell Westbrook accounted for six turnovers, including the final one with 5.9 seconds remaining that San Antonio converted into the winning possession.
Oklahoma City swapped reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden for Kevin Martin and rookie Jeremy Lamb just before the season began, and Martin made his debut with 15 points and five assists off the bench.
Portland began their season with a 116-106 win over the stumbling Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday, with all five starters scoring in double digits, and rookie point guard Damian Lillard pouring in 23 points and dropping 11 assists.
Taken No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, Lillard has already started to stymie critics who said he couldn’t hold up against stiffer competition coming out of Weber State.
The Blazers took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Lakers 30-19, and converted L.A.’s 24 turnovers into 28 points.
Portland was also expecting a breakout year from forward Nicolas Batum, who scored a team-high 26 points, and looks poised to complement All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge on the team’s young front line.
Oklahoma City hopes to avoid their first 0-2 start since the 2007-08 season, when they were the Seattle Supersonics in Durant's rookie year.
The game tips-off at 8 p.m. EDT and you can watch a live stream of the opener online by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband.
Betting Odds: Oklahoma City is favored by 9 points.
Over/Under: 203 points
Prediction: The game will come down to point guard play. Lillard bested L.A.’s Steve Nash, and now must contend with the speedy and athletic Westbrook. Turnovers have plagued Westbrook throughout his young career, but if he can cut them down, Oklahoma City will win.
Predicted Score: Oklahoma City 100, Portland 95