Oklahoma City Thunder (2-2, 1-0 road) vs. Houston Rockets (3-2, 1-1 home)
View from the enemy: Rockets Buzz
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 100.3 (24th), Rockets – 110.0 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 97.8 (4th), Rockets – 107.5 (18th)
Pace: Thunder – 88.7 (27th), Rockets – 92.8 (17th)
I think this is where we all thought we’d be. Sitting at 2-2 headed to Houston for a matchup with the enigmatic Rockets. But with the way the last two games went, I think a lot of Thunder fans had dreams of 4-0 in their heads. Some are complaining about their star’s shot selection. Some are blaming the 20-year-old point guard already. Some don’t like the coaching.
What does it mean? That we care now. It’s important enough for us to care. While I don’t agree with basically any of it, just the fact that folks are criticizing means we’ve moved past the “I hope they just play hard” phase and now we care about wins. It’s a good step to take with a team. Of course, expectations can’t swell and get unreasonable, but I think we all see the talent on this team. It can win some games, youth or not.
But here’s what’s a little scary: After Houston, the Thunder plays the Magic at home. So after the promising start, a four-game losing streak is a very real possibility if OKC’s loses in Houston. There are winnable games after that but even as well as the Thunder played against the Lakers, I think some of that early confidence has taken a dip. We’re not ready for “Should win’s” yet. We still have to hope for the best a little.
Anyway, enough of that. On to tonight:
Kevin Durant once again gets a tough batch of defenders thrown at him tonight in Trevor Ariza and Shane Battier. But actually, in my mind these are the types of defenders KD can have his way with. Ron Artest is a bully that gets underneath you, bodies you up and doesn’t let you move without the ball without contact. Battier and Ariza are a bit of the same, but with nowhere near the bullishness of Artest. Battier and Ariza both frustrate a lot of guys because of their length and athleticism, but that shouldn’t be that much of an issue for Durant seeing as he’s near seven-foot and as long as… well, something really long. Ariza is also Houston’s leading scorer and I really like Thabo matching up on him.
How about some speed on speed? Russell Westbrook versus Aaron Brooks should be a lot of fun just because of the speed. Maybe the broadcast needs to adopt the NHL’s old glow puck idea and put it on these guys so that we don’t lose them on the court. Luis Scola could give Jeff Green some trouble because he’s athletic and a bruiser in the post. Green has played much better on the block this year, but Scola may be the best true post scorer he’s seen so far.
The Rockets have a big advantage with their bench with guys like Chase Budinger, Kyle Lowry, rookie David Anderson and Carl Landry. It’s becoming more and more evident that James Harden is going to be the No. 1 option for offensive production off the Thunder bench, which I’m fine with. But OKC is going to need another high-energy game from Etan Thomas as well as some work from Nick Collison and either Kevin Ollie or Shaun Livingston. I think a lot of this game comes down to the benches.
This is kind of a big game for the Thunder. I don’t think this team has moved past, “At least be competitive and play a good game” and into “It’s disappointing if you don’t win” territory yet, but it’s coming. I’d love a win, but the scrappy Rockets won’t go down easily. I just hope for good energy from the tip and maybe a little chip on the shoulder of Durant and Westbrook. Both those guys have had multiple days off to hear and think about Tuesday night’s game. Tonight, they could try and make people forget a little.
Tip at 7:30 CST. Go team in blue.