Houston Rockets (8-8, 4-4 road) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-7, 4-3 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 104.7 (21st), Rockets – 107.6 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 101.2 (4th), Rockets – 107.3 (19th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.1 (18th), Rockets – 94.4 (9th)
It’s a running theme – with each win, the next game feels bigger. Feels more important. Feels like a loss could be a setback. Especially when it’s at home.
And now at 9-7 and two games over .500 for the first time since 2-0, Oklahoma City has a chance to start a real winning streak and get things really cooking. I said it before the Milwaukee game, but with a five-game homestand, the Thunder could separate themselves from .500 by a decent amount.
Houston is coming in at 8-8 with two straight losses – both at home against the Spurs and Mavs. They’re 4-4 on the road, with tonight’s game being the first of an extended road trip. I’d say the Rockets will come out ready to fire as they sense a chance to get their trip off on the right foot.
Let me say I love the way the current Rockets play. Completely unselfish, feeding off one another and just gritty. Playing without a true star, it’s a joy to watch. At the same time it can limit them in crucial situations. Kevin Durant will have a tough go as he gets Shane Battier and Trevor Ariza, two high caliber defenders. That’s such a bonus for Houston to be able to basically rotate the two on KD, keeping fresh legs on him.
Ariza is really the Rockets top scoring threat and Thabo gets the call as usual. In the first meeting Ariza went for 21 points on 8-18 shooting and hit 2-5 from deep. Much like Milwaukee, the Rockets are undersized a bit inside with Chuck Hayes playing the five. But Hayes does yeoman’s work pulling down boards, taking charges and basically doing everything the box score doesn’t record.
Luis Scola has always been a tough match for Jeff Green because of his inside-outside ability. No Nenad Krstic tonight (ankle) as Etan Thomas will start in his steed. So that means even more Serge Ibaka and D.J. White, something I’m actually kind of excited about. But that also means OKC is thin in the frontcourt against Hayes, Scola and Carl Landry.
Russell Westbrook went for 33 in the first meeting as he was OKC’s only real offensive threat. Aaron Brooks is quick but much smaller than Russ. Westbrook had his way getting into the lane last time and if he can do that again drawing defenders, the Thunder could have a good night.
Oklahoma City is 1-3 on Sunday night so far this season and this is no easy task. But it could be another good step in the direction of the p-word that we don’t really want to mention at this point.
One thing to consider: No matter what happens tonight, the Thunder is going to be on the plus side of .500 for the month of November. Obviously that’s no excuse to lose, but I don’t think many of us saw that happening considering the grueling schedule to start the season. So truthfully, twas a good November no matter what. Now go make it better.
Tip at 6:00 CST. Go winning streak.