First off, thanks to Max for covering for me against the Blazers. His preview was way too good so I can't ask him to write any more.
After exorcising demons against the Pacers, James Harden will look to do the same against the Thunder team that has generally owned him since his trade to Houston. The Rockets are 3-9 against the Thunder since Harden switched jerseys. In two of those 3 wins, Harden played extremely well, including a career-high 46 on Trade Deadline Eve last season. In basically the other 10 games (one win and 9 losses), Harden has played incredibly poorly. He turns the ball over a bunch and gets blocked at the rim at an incredible clip. The Rockets need the 46-point Harden, but it might be too much to count on him to continue his superhuman play. The Rockets will need all hands on deck tonight, from everyone.
In 2012, the Heat and Pacers played each other in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. In game 1, Bosh went down so the Heat needed LeBron James to play even more than normal. At one point, he looked over to his coach and asked for a breather. His coach famously responded: "You can flat-out not get tired, period." Right now, the Rockets need Harden to not get tired for one more week.
In their last 11 games, the Thunder won 3 straight, lost 3 straight, won 3 straight, and now they've lost two in a row. The Rockets will hope to keep that interesting streak going, while the Thunder will attempt to right the ship and regain first place in the Western Conference. As Houston fans have found out and Thunder fans are now learning, the Spurs don't lose unless you beat them. Otherwise, good luck holding them off or catching them at this point in the season.
Matchups are essentially impossible tonight because the Thunder are one of those teams that can be versatile with their lineups because their three best players can play more than one position. In their last game, the Thunder started Russell Westbrook, Perry Jones, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Steven Adams. They are also missing Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins.
In that game against the Lakers, Adams played 10 minutes and Jones played 17. Off the bench, the Thunder got 12 or more minutes from Jeremy Lamb, Nick Collison, Caron Butler, Reggie Jackson, and the Evil One, Derek Fisher.
That's one incredible bench for the Thunder, and the Rockets need more than just a great game from Jeremy Lin to stick with that group. You know Fisher will hit multiple threes and get away with hard fouls and flops. Lamb will play like he has something to prove. Butler will continue to be re-energized after leaving the black hole that is Milwaukee,. Jackson will carve up the Rockets like he always seems to do. And of course, Trilla.
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The ultimate Nick Collison mix (via Daily Thunder)
Oh, and Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook are meeting for the first time since "The Incident." Expect vitriol out of the Thunder fans all night, and expect Bev to not give a shit.
Tip off is at 7pm CST on NBA TV.
Prediction: Rockets somehow, some way, pull out this one 108-105.
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