Thunder (55-19, 23-12 road) vs. Rockets (49-25, 31-6 home)
Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.3 (7th), Rockets – 110.5 (6th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 103.2 (5th), Rockets – 105.6 (12th)
Pace: Thunder – 95.6 (9th), Rockets – 95.9 (5th)
Last night’s win was big. It was intense. It was emotional. But the Thunder have to let go of that very quickly, because they’re looking at another difficult task tonight. The Rockets are a premier team, obviously, but they’re also someone the Thunder have dominated the past few seasons. Which means one of two things: 1) That will continue or 2) the tide will begin to turn.
What the Thunder showed most on Thursday is their ability to crank their defensive pressure. The same thing happened the last time they played the Rockets, so it’s pretty clear that when they want to, they can play a little defense.
But either way, this will be a challenge. The Thunder are two back of the Spurs in the loss column, so any further slip will pretty much ruin whatever outside chance they have left at the top seed.
Three Big Things
1. Short-handed. No Russell Westbrook. No Thabo Sefolosha. And No Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder will regroup around Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, with Reggie Jackson hopefully building off his positive stretch of play. The Thunder are pretty familiar with how to play against the Rockets without Westbrook, so if there’s anyone for OKC to sort this against again, it’s them.
2. D. Play some again. Really, it’s simple as that.
3. 40. It matters. Kelly Dwyer explained why nicely here, but Durant tying something Michael Jordan did is important. He shouldn’t have too much trouble since Westbrook is out and he’ll garner all the focus, but it still has to be done.
Tip at 8:30 CT. Go 40.