There have been plenty of emotional swings during the race for first place in the Northwest division in the Western Conference.
To start the season, both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant weren’t on the court due to injury. Westbrook fractured his hand during an October game against the Clippers and missed 14 games, while Durant missed the first 17 games due to an injury prior to the season.
As both returned and became acclimated to the regular season, Durant has had foot and ankle problems throughout the season and even had a second surgery to alleviate pain from his foot.
The Portland Trail Blazers had their own injury scare, when it was reported in late January that their All-Star center, LaMarcus Aldridge, was going to miss six to eight weeks due to thumb surgery. Aldridge opted not to have the surgery and play through the pain.
The race for first place in the division is coming a little more into focus, as the Blazers lead the Thunder by six games with fewer than 25 games remaining. The lead has shrunk since the Thunder went streaking, winning seven in a row before losing to Phoenix on Thursday night. The Blazers have played .500 basketball in their last 10 games.
The thought of the Thunder not making the playoffs is basically forgotten, as they’ve climbed into the eighth seed of the playoffs but still have their sights set on the division. The double-digit lead the Blazers had near the All-Star break has been just about cut in half, thanks mostly to Westbrook.
Westbrook is averaging almost 30 points per game with over 10 assists and eight rebounds over his last 10 games. His 11 triple-doubles since entering the league in 2008-09 rank third while his three this season are tied with Michael Carter-Williams and Rajon Rondo for the NBA lead.
Friday night, the Trail Blazers host the Thunder at the Moda Center at the Rose Quarter. There are fewer than 150 OKC Thunder tickets remaining, with an average ticket price of $98.34 and a walk-in price of $35 according to Totally Tickets.
Westbrook “struggled” Thursday night against the Suns, finally cooling off from the tear he had recently been on. Even though his final stat line was visually appealing (39 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, three steals), Westbrook shot 12 for 38 from the floor and 1 for 10 from the 3-point line.