OKC Thunder (11-5, 6-1 road) at Houston Rockets (4-11, 2-4)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 108.9 (7th), Rockets – 107.4 (14th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 108.9 (21st), Rockets – 109.9 (25th)
Pace: Thunder – 93.3 (13th), Rockets – 96.9 (3rd)
View from the enemy: Red 94
At some point, this terrific road success has to come to an end, right? The Thunder have won five straight and are 6-1 overall away from Oklahoma City, with the one loss being to the lowly Clippers. But the Thunder goes south to Houston tonight to play a Rockets team desperate to turn things around after a baffling slow start. In other words, DANGER DANGER DANGER.
Houston coming in: The Rockets have dropped five of six and most recently played at Charlotte Friday, losing. The Rockets are just 2-4 at home, with wins over Golden State and Minnesota.
The matchups are clearly leaning OKC’s way again, just like the first meeting. Kyle Lowry is going to have trouble containing Russell Westbrook, Shane Battier is a good defender but he doesn’t match well with Kevin Durant and while Luis Scola does damage against the Thunder typically, Houston isn’t a strong interior team.
(An aside: I’m ready for a signature Durant game. Like a 37-point night on 13-19 shooting, including 3-4 from 3. I’m ready for that, okay guys?)
The key will likely be in the Thabo-Kevin Martin matchup. The Rockets are having the most difficulty finding scoring options with Aaron Brooks out with an injury. Martin is a terrific scorer, but Thabo is the kind of defender that matches well with the slashing style of Martin.
Scola played well in the first meeting, but that was against Serge Ibaka who was starting for Jeff Green. Scola has fared even better historically against Green, typically taking him inside to score on the block. Ibaka was largely ineffective against the Pacers, but will likely play a big role in this one. Another important piece will be Nick Collison’s interior defense against Brad Miller and Scola.
In the first meeting, OKC turned a decently close game into a blowout with a good finish to the third quarter. The Rockets are going to give the Thunder chances to take control and make this not as hard as it should be. But it’s about putting it together for two halves and playing quality basketball to do it. OKC may have a clear advantage, but this Rockets team is starved for a win and while they may be struggling, they aren’t as bad as their record suggests.
Tip at 6:00 CT. Go Oh-Kay-See.