NBA Basketball

Thunder-Trail Blazers Preview

The orchestrator of the Oklahoma City offense is struggling with his shot, but he still has the full attention of the Trail Blazers, the Thunder's opponent Friday night in Portland.

OKC guard Russell Westbrook is shooting 41.6 percent from the field, and only 23.6 percent from 3-point range and 62.6 percent from the free-throw line this season. In the Thunder's 107-100 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers Wednesday night at Staples Center, Westbrook totaled 14 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists but was 3-for-20 from the field. He became the first player in the NBA in 32 years to notch a triple-double while shooting 15 percent or lower.

"He's a high-volume guy," said Portland guard Seth Curry, the NBA leader in 3-point percentage at 51.2 percent. "He is going to get numbers. He puts pressure on your defense the whole game. He plays with a lot of energy. You still have to do your job defensively against him and try to make it tough on him."

The Thunder (24-13) have won seven of their last 10 games in no small part to small forward Paul George -- who scored 37 points against the Lakers despite 2-for-11 3-point shooting -- and a group that leads the NBA in defensive efficiency.

"They're a good defensive team," Curry said. "They find ways to win. They're a tough team to play against."

Westbrook scored 40 and 32 points, respectively, in wins over Phoenix and Dallas but has had shooting performances such as 4-for-22, 6-for-20 and 3-for-17 over the last two weeks.

"Whatever he is going through," OKC coach Billy Donovan said, "when I say I don't worry about it, I don't worry about it."

"It's really on me," Westbrook said. "I've been (expletive) the last month or so. I've just got to get focused in and locked back in on what I need to do. My job is to make sure we win games, and that's it. I'll be fine. I'm good."

Westbrook is averaging 20.7 points and 10.9 rebounds and leads the league in assists (10.1) and steals (2.7 steals).

"Scoring is not the only thing I can do," said Westbrook, who also has a league-leading 11 technical fouls. "I'm the best rebounder at my position, the best passer at my position, the best defender at my position," he said. "I can do everything, and I pride myself on that."

Westbrook will be matched up with Portland's Damian Lillard, who is having a banner season offensively. He ranks eighth in the NBA in scoring at 26.7 points while shooting 45.2 percent from the field, 39.4 percent from 3-point range and 89.5 percent from the foul line.

"Damian is playing some of the best ball of his career," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "He's making big shots and big plays down the stretch of close games, too."

The Thunder must contend with Portland center Jusuf Nurkic, who is coming off the best game of his career in a 113-108 overtime win over Sacramento on Tuesday. The 7-foot Bosnian collected 24 points, a career-high 23 rebounds, seven assists, five steals and five blocked shots while making 14 of 16 free throws.

Updated January 3, 2019

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