Rockets (44-19, 18-12 road) vs. Thunder (46-17, 26-6 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.2 (6th), Rockets – 110.4 (5th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.4 (5th), Rockets – 105.3 (12th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.6 (9th), Rockets – 95.7 (8th)
The last time the Thunder played the Houston Rockets, they were missing a starter, and 3-5 in the first eight games without him. They were searching for solutions to problems, and trying to sort themselves out before things got really bad.
Then they allowed 73 points in the first half, and it seemed that more of the same was coming. But a 19-point second half lockdown sparked a 10-game winning streak and turned things completely around.
The Thunder are 3-5 since the All-Star break and once again missing key rotational players. Is this a night things get turned again?
You can look at this game one of two ways: 1) The Thunder fall deeper into their misery, losing at home to a Western contender and one of the hottest teams in the league or 2) they beat a Western contender and one of the hottest teams in the league, and quickly wash away the gripes and grumbles of the loss to the Lakers. That’s what an NBA season is — what have you done recently. Because a win over Houston tonight and things can quickly be forgiven.
The Thunder are much better than they’ve played recently, and eventually that powerful title contender is going to show back up. Will it be tonight? Or do have another few days of complaining ahead?
Three Big Things
1. No Perk. In the two games against the Thunder so far this season, Dwight Howardhas scored 20 points on 9-26 shooting with 19 total rebounds. Without Kendrick Perkins, who defended Howard for roughly 80 percent of the time he was on the floor, how does Steven Adams handle the assignment? And then Hasheem Thabeet after him? Howard has been playing some of his best basketball in years, and this is a bad time for the Thunder to be missing Perk.
2. No Thabo. Outside of Harden’s 46-point explosion last season, for the most part, he hasn’t scored all that well against the Thunder. And that’s largely because of Thabo Sefolosha’s defense, to which he’s obviously keyed in to what Harden wants to do. Nobody knows Harden’s game better than Thabo, and again, the Thunder don’t have him tonight. So the job will fall to probably Russell Westbrook to start the game, with Kevin Durant, Andre Roberson and Perry Jones all probably seeing some time on him.
3. Westbrook v. The Player That Crashed Into Westbrook. First time they’ve been on the floor together since The Incident. Westbrook was asked this morning at shootaround if he held any animosity against Beverley and he said, “Nah.” Asked something else about him, Westbrook said, “What I just say? That’s it. No more questions about that.” Then asked about Damian Lillard’s comments about Beverley, Westbrook said, “I don’t care about it to tell you the truth. Doesn’t have anything to do with me. I play my game, worry about my team and that’s it.” So this should be fun.
Tip at 7:00 CT. Go For The Love Of Everything Play Defense.