Game of the Day: April 12

Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trailblazers — 10 PM eastern

As the NBA’s regular season winds down, there are still many playoff positions up for grabs, especially in the tightly contested Western conference. Monday’s best game features two of the teams jockeying for advantage.

These two teams also boast some of the league’s finest young talent: the Thunder with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Jeff Green, among others, and the Trailblazers with Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Both of these teams will be playing the second half of a back-to-back. On Sunday the Thunder lost a barn burner 120-117 to the Warriors. The Blazers defeated the first-place Lakers 91-88, and Roy didn’t even play in the second half.

Obviously whether Roy plays could be a deciding factor in the outcome, but it’s not yet clear whether he’ll suit up. If he doesn’t, Portland will have to make due with players like Nicolas Batum and Martell Webster to fill in for him.

Westbrook should be effective against point guard Andre Miller, who has lost a step over the years and can’t defend quick guards as well anymore.

The Blazers have won two of the three games played against the Thunder this season, but in the one they lost, Durant dropped 33 points and 11 rebounds. Portland will have to be cognizant of stopping Oklahoma City’s star, and the addition of Marcus Camby up front should help to limit No. 35’s production. In their last matchup (the first since the Camby deal with the Clippers), Durant shot just 7-18 from the field.

The winner of this game should hinge upon Roy’s status. If he plays, he’ll have a tough defender in Thabo Sefolosha, but he should be able to overcome that for a solid line. If he’s inactive, I can’t see that Portland will be able to put up enough offense to contend with Oklahoma City’s youngsters.

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