OKC Thunder (13-12, 6-5 road) vs. Houston Rockets (15-11, 6-4 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 105.4 (21st), Rockets – 107.6 (15th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.9 (7th), Rockets – 105.9 (15th)
Pace: Thunder – 91.9 (21tst), Rockets – 93.6 (10th)
View from the enemy: Red 94
And so it begins. The tough three-game roadie I’ve been talking about far too much over the last week is finally here. It starts with a trip to Houston, less than 24 hours after winning a big game at home against Detroit.
Honestly, I’d be entirely shocked to see the Thunder come out with good energy and effort tonight. Last night’s win against the Pistons was a little emotional because it was important. The team knew it. The crowd knew it. And with a big fourth quarter, OKC surged (more like SERGED amirite?) to a big win.
But that’s over with. It’s on to a new night, a new game, a new opponent. And this is a good opponent, one that has beaten the Thunder twice already. And the time in Houston pretty much ran circles around OKC. For some reason, Houston’s small, quick lineups really give the Thunder a ton of trouble. I don’t really know why, so don’t ask.
Houston comes in off a grueling overtime win in Dallas last night, in a game there were six technicals called, and Carl Landry lost part of his face in Dirk Nowitzki’s arm. In a collison with Dirk, Landry lost five teeth, including one in Dirk’s elbow. Landry was in surgery to repair his mouth late last night and I doubt he’ll be available tonight. But the point is, while OKC may be flat and lethargic, Houston could easily suffer the same affliction.
Like I said, for some reason, Houston’s guard heavy lineups really frustrate the Thunder defensively. The Rockets move the ball well and look to get four or five scorers involved. And OKC has trouble covering all this. Trevor Ariza has done a decent job defending Kevin Durantin the first two meeting. Luis Scola sat basically the entire last game with a cut under his eye, but Jeff Green has historically struggled there. Aaron Brooks is a tough cover for anyone, but Russell Westbrookcouldn’t lock him down late in the last meeting. In most the matchups, Houston has it even or an advantage it seems.
A huge key will be bench production. Like last night against Detroit, if James Harden can create and score, it could be exactly the boost the Thunder needs. Serge Ibaka is instant energy off the pine and his insertion tonight will be big. If he can rebound and play a little post defense and cut off some of the drive penetration the Houston guards will look to do, OKC could be alright.
The goal on this road trip is to steal one game. I think this may be the best opportunity. It’s very unlikely you’ll beat the Lakers in L.A. Phoenix is undefeated at home. So… yeah. The Rockets are up 2-0 on OKC and you’ve got to think the Thunder will be somewhat motivated, even on tired legs.
Tip at 7:30 CST. Go team Thunder.