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PDX Sports Tuesday

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - LaMarcus Aldridge and the Trail Blazers are at Oklahoma City for a New Year's Eve game.Tuesday, Dec. 31

Blazers

Portland will play at Oklahoma City, 5 p.m. PT (KGW 8).

The Thunder (25-5) lead the Blazers (24-7) by 2 1/2 games in the NBA Northwest Division, but Oklahoma City is without star guard Russell Westbrook, out till after the All-Star break because of knee surgery.

OKC has wins over Charlotte and Houston, though, since Westbrook went down, and the Thunder held those teams to a combined 37.0 percent shooting from the field.

And Western Conference foes have lost 34 of their past 35 games at Oklahoma City.

But the good news for the Blazers is that they aren't likely to shoot as poorly as Charlotte and Houston did against OKC — Portland hasn't been under 40 percent in a game this season.

Portland, however, must look to shore up a defense that allowed Miami and New Orleans to shoot 52.8 percent as the clubs handed the Blazers their first two-game skid of the season.

"In order to win more games we need to get it under control," guard Damian Lillard says of Portland's defense.

Instead of Westbrook, Lillard will match up against Reggie Jackson in the battle of high-scoring clubs (Portland leads the NBA at 108.6 points per game, and OKC is third at 106.1).

  • Winterhawks

    The Hawks face the team with the best record in the WHl Western Conference, the Kelowna Rockets, in their annual New Year's Eve game. Faceoff is 8 p.m. at Moda Center.

    It's the first of a home-and-home back-to-back, as Portland and Kelowna will meet again at 7 p.m. Thursday at Memorial Coliseum.

    The Rockets have won their last 14 games; the Winterhawks are on a two-game winning streak.

    Kelowna won a back-to-back at its Prospera Place on Oct. 4-5, scoring 6-2 and 6-3 victories.

  • Best bets elsewhere

    9:30 a.m.: Arizona vs Boston College — Two 7-5 teams, Pac-12 vs. Atlantic Coast Conference, square off in the Advocare V100 Bowl at Shreveport, La. (ESPN).

    11 a.m.: UCLA vs. Virginia Tech — The Bruins (9-3) play the 8-4 Hokies of the ACC in the Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas (CBS).