These last few days have been a Houston Rockets revenge tour. After taking down the Clippers and Celtics for the first time this season, Houston gets yet another chance to take down a team they have yet to defeat.
OKC fans clung to their record against top teams for a while until Cleveland and Golden State beat them. Houston had the unfortunate luck of having to face a fully healthy Thunder squad that was pumped to prove themselves on national television on Christmas. Oh, and the game was in OKC. So is tonight’s contest.
In the first meeting, Chris Paul and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute were out for Houston and it showed. Houston’s offense was up and down and relied too much on James Harden. The only Rocket to shoot above 50% was Clint Capela (9-14). As a team, Houston shot 43% from the field and 32% from deep. Conversely, the Thunder shot 54% overall and 44% from deep. Every starter for OKC shot at least 50%.
Part of OKC’s success in that contest was Andre Roberson, who still gives James Harden fits defensively. His movement off-ball on offense usually catches his defender off-guard as well. All-in-all, OKC has been much worse without him and Houston will be glad not to see him, even if they cannot go to hacking if needed.
I expect Paul George, Russell Westbrook, and Carmelo Anthony to take a bunch of shots. I expect Steven Adams to grab offensive rebounds like a crazy man. I expect at least one random player on the Thunder to go off.
For Houston, I expect the Rockets to play at the same slow pace they have played during this 15-game winning streak. Much to the media’s surprise, Houston has not been the “Seven Seconds or Less” Suns 2.0, but in fact love getting mismatches and exploiting them. That takes time, and CP3’s ability to slow down the game and get his matchups has extended to the Beard.
This should be a fun game, but this feels like the game that will end Houston’s winning streak. In March and April, the team that must have the win usually gets it. The Rockets want this win, but the Thunder need it. That fact, plus the homecourt advantage, give the edge to OKC.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT on TNT