Oklahoma City’s record versus the Rockets in 2010-11: 3-1
Average score: 112.2 – 103.7
Kevin Durant’s average and shooting percentage: 21.0 ppg, 51.9 percent
Games against them in 2011-12: Three
How they match up: Now that Shane Battier’s gone and Yao Ming is retired, the Rockets don’t present major matchup issues with the Thunder anymore. Luis Scola has always given the Thunder fits with his supreme footwork and crafty post moves. That was always against Jeff Green though, so with OKC’s new and improved front line, the Thunder should fare a bit better.
The Rockets are always in the market to improve and grow though, so they’re definitely going to be a player in the free agent market as well as the trade market. Chuck Hayes is their de facto starting 5, but that could be subject to change at some point. Whether or not the new guys like Jonny Flynn, Goran Dragic and their rookies work out is yet to be seen. Whatever the case, OKC appears to have a pretty favorable matchup.
Durant averaged just 21.0 points a game against Houston last year and the funny thing is that KD shot better than 50 percent. The big difference was that KD only averaged 4.2 free throws a game. That’s a credit to Battier’s terrific defense and just the Rockets’ team defense as a whole. But that’s a lot different now.
Why they’re a problem: Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry. Both are underrated scorers and both can make it difficult to win on a nightly basis. Lowry will bulldog Russell Westbrook, Martin will score in his stupidly efficient way and the rest of their guys — Chase Budinger, Chuck Hayes, Scola and whoever else — all seem to step up. The Rockets all know how to play together and they all seem to fit into their roles extremely well.
Why they’re not: Rick Adelman is gone now, which means that offensive wizardry is gone. A lot of that exquisite team basketball comes as a result of Adelman’s smart offensive scheme and system. Kevin McHale is a player’s coach and will motivate, but he certainly doesn’t have the pedigree like Adelman.
Worst of all, there’s a little bit of a lack of talent in terms of depth for the Rockets. Martin is a great efficient scorer, Lowry is a nice player and Scola is a good post man, but outside of that, the Rockets are fairly mediocre. And without Battier, who defends Durant? The Thunder have an edge on the interior now and combine that with the edge in overall talent, the Thunder should handle Houston again this year.
Are they a roadblock? No, but like the Hornets, the Rockets are definitely good enough to win a game, or more, against you. If you don’t play a consistent game that features offense, defense and rebounding, the Rockets can capitalize on you.
They aren’t a likely playoff squad so they won’t stand in the way of OKC in that regard and the Thunder’s last game against them is Feb. 15 so it’s not like there’s a pivotal late season game against them either.