OKC Thunder (22-6, 7-4 road) vs. Houston Rockets (16-13, 11-5 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 112.8 (1st), Rockets– 108.3 (8th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 104.0 (11th), Rockets – 105.7 (16th)
Pace: Thunder – 92.0 (13th), Rockets – 96.5 (1st)
View from the enemy: Red 94
The first one was awkward. It was not only the first time the Thunder had to oppose James Harden, he was back in Oklahoma City too. Now that’s out of the way and while it’s still a bit weird to see No. 13 on the other side, it’s mostly about basketball tonight.
The Thunder can’t afford to be distracted with petty revenge or whatever either. The Rockets are playing good basketball lately, winning five of their last six. They’re becoming a very strong offensive team, playing at a quick pace and trying to put constant pressure on defenses.
Even with the thrilling comeback win over the Mavs, the Thunder have looked a bit shaky as of late. The loss in Minnesota and the rugged loss in Miami featured extended stale offense. The Rockets aren’t a good defensive team, so maybe there’s an opportunity to get loose a bit. Especially Russell Westbrook, who hasn’t shot the ball well at all recently. He’ll probably be pretty excited to see Jeremy Lin guarding him.
Houston coming in: The Rockets lost an offensive shootout to the Spurs last night.
Three Big Things
1. Beard. The Thunder shut down Harden the first time, holding him to a miserable 3-of-16 shooting night. They bracketed him in the pick-and-roll and hounded him every time he tried to go to the rim. He was the entire focus. The Thunder know how to defend him, but sometimes that’s easier said than done.
2. The Sanity Brothers. In the first meeting, the Thunder locked down Harden, and Jeremy Lin didn’t do anything as a backup option. But recently, Lin and Harden have played much better together, really seeming to figure out how to play off one another more instead of just taking turns.
3. Pick-and-rolling. This really has a lot to do with Harden and Lin too, but those two can make a player like Omer Asik a very dangerous offensive weapon with his rolls to the bucket. Nikola Pekovic torched OKC’s bigs in the pick-and-roll a week ago. If Perk and Ibaka aren’t keyed in, Asik could get a bunch of easy buckets.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go Locks.