Houston Rockets (7-7, 2-4 road) vs. OKC Thunder (11-4, 7-2 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 111.4 (3rd), Rockets– 106.4 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.7 (10th), Rockets – 104.1 (15th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.5 (13th), Rockets – 94.9 (1st)
View from the enemy: Red 94
Some serious anticipation surrounding this one. For the first time since the big move, the Thunder welcome the sensation known as Linsanity to OKC.
Oh. And that James Harden guy comes back too. I guess that’s a big deal too.
What’s important about this game outside of all the stuff circling it, is that the Thunder win. Defending Harden, whether to clap or boo, how he plays, how he interacts with KD and Westbrook — all of that is really window dressing compared the Thunder winning the game.
Every Thunder fan wants to yell “MOVE ON!” about this thing, but there’s no avoiding what a big deal this trade was. James Harden meant a whole lot to this team, and this city. Ignoring that would be disrespectful to the last three years.
Losing doesn’t indict Presti’s decision, nor does a massive Harden game. But it sure wouldn’t feel good. Winning means the Thunder are 12-4 and took care of business against someone they’re better than. That’s it.
Houston coming in: The Rockets won last night at home against the Raptors.
Three Big Things
1. Westbrooksanity. Russell Westbrook is going to try and abuse Jeremy Lin. In the limited time they played each other in the preseason, Lin couldn’t check Westbrook at all. If there’s one single big matchup gap, it’s at point guard. Expect Westbrook to post Lin a lot.
2. Corralling the Beard. The Thunder will go with Thabo on Harden to start with, which makes sense since, you know, Harden their best player and Thabo’s OKC’s best defender. It’s all about defending the pick-and-roll, which is what Houston will probably run 80 percent of tonight. Harden thrives in the pick-and-roll, and the Thunder can be spotty at times defending it. If I’m Scott Brooks, I pencil Nick Collison in for 30 minutes.
3. Just play. There’s a lot going on with this game. But the Thunder are the better team. Removing emotion and anticipation, the Thunder have better players, and they’re at home. Discounting the chance of a crazy Eff You game from Harden, the Thunder should have the firepower to handle this.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Razors.