Luckily, the Thunder are fully rested and at the tail-end of a five-game homestand. This is exactly when you want to play the best team in the Western Conference. We really need a sarcasm font.
Only two teams have won in Loud City this year: the Blazers won by 10 early in the season and the Cavaliers won there on Friday. There's no real shame in either one of those games, though I'm sure the Cavs loss hurt the Thunder much more than the Blazers. As a Rockets fan whose team just lost to the Cavs, I can't say much here.
The Thunder are five games clear of second place in the West standings. They are the favorites to represent the West in the Finals, though the Spurs, Mavs, Lakers, and Clippers still have a say in the matter. And the Grizzlies played them well last season. The good news is the Thunder will only have to face two of them at most probably and should have home-court advantage throughout the first three rounds. Their nine losses are tied with Miami and Chicago for the fewest in the NBA.
The Thunder play some great basketball, and there's a serious part of me that wants the Finals to be Thunder-Heat. How much fun would that series be to watch? The two best small forwards in the league? Four of the top 10 most exciting players in the league? Potentially five guys who will play in the Olympics together just months later? Oh the intrigue!
Matchups after the jump.
PG: Goran Dragic vs. Russell Westbrook:
No Rockets player should be untouchable. I know Dragic's play has people wondering if he could be the starter, and Sergio "The Palindrome" Llull will most likely come over next year, but before we start throwing Lowry into trade ideas, remember that Dragic is an unrestricted free agent after this season. With the way he's playing, it's likely he'll be outside of the Rockets price range. And if the Rockets trade Lowry, he'll have a ton of leverage and might make the Rockets overpay to keep him around.
I love Dragic, as you know. But if the choice is Lowry and Llull vs. Dragic and Llull next season, I think there is a clear winner there.
SG: Courtney Lee vs. Daequan Cook/James Harden:
Thabo Sefolosha is out, so Cook starts here. But he ain't the man at the 2 for the Thunder. That belongs to James Harden. I was a huge fan of his out of Arizona St. Outside of Westbrook, Harden is the only guy on the team that can create shots for other players on the team. He has great vision scored 33 points the other night against the Bobcats. He also has the coolest beard ever.
With K-Mart day-to-day, Courtney Lee will start. Interesting to see will be how McHale reacts to the decimation of the backcourt due to injuries. Will Terrence Williams get some time? Do the Rockets play "big" and have Budinger play with Parsons?
And remember, it was Martin who helped the Rockets beat the Thunder last time in Houston.
SF: Chandler Parsons vs. Kevin Durant:
Parsons defended this guy well last time.
Not sure who he is though. Kevin...Durant? Sounds like a scrub. Look, he dropped a bunch of points in a pickup game! You know who else dominated at Rucker Park? Rafer Alston. So this guy probably sucks too. Look for him to go 3-11 tonight.
Kevin Durant: Catches Fire in the 4th Qtr (UNEDITED) (via thanasispetrakis)
PF: Luis Scola vs. Serge Ibaka:
I wish Scola had a cool nickname like "Air Congo." And no, the Ice Cream Man doesn't count. Too creepy for me.
If it weren't for Scola's recent resurgence, I'd give Ibaka the advantage or call this even. But he gets it, but just barely.
C: Samuel Dalembert vs. Kendrick Perkins:
Perkins will play half the game, and the Kansas duo of Cole Aldrich and Nick Collison will split the other minutes.
But I want to talk about Nick Collison for a second. Sorry Tom.
Collison writes a guest blog for GQ. Does that make him sound even more like a douche? Yeah. But it lead to one of the best "This is why the Internet is awesome" moments this year.
About a month ago, Collison wrote this, in a post about knowing your role on an NBA team when you aren't a superstar:
The hard part is being able to have the focus to do it over and over again, knowing you aren't going to get a lot of credit. Doing a great job of talking on defense won't get you any high-paying endorsement deals. Nobody is making a YouTube mix of all your badass screens with a Rick Ross track playing over it. (I'm not saying I would complain if someone did this for me.)
You know what happens next. Two videos immediately popped up. Here's one that uses an edited version of Ross' "Billionaire," so it's as safe-for-work as a Rick Ross song can be. But there is no outright swearing. I listened twice to make sure. The other one is on Youtube, but is definitely NSFW.
The ultimate Nick Collison mix (via dailythunder)
I just find this hilarious.
Thunder: Reggie Jackson, James Harden (technically), Royal Ivey, Nick Collison, Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich
Rockets: Jonny "Don't Call Me Sam" Flynn, Chase Budinger, Patrick Patterson, Me, Xiane, BD, Tom, Lee, Dave, Patrick, Mike, OAL
Advantage: Thunder, though Patrick is a stud I hear
Thunder: Thabo Sefolosha out
Rockets: Lowry out (abdomen), Kevin Martin day-to-day (shoulder), Jordan Hill out (flu)
Prediction: Thunder 108-89
Make sure you get in on TCWHRO (we have to figure out another way to say that)'s fantasy basketball game. Details here. Just make your predictions in the comments, and maybe explain how you came to that conclusion so we have something to talk about.
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