The Rockets have turned into a disaster right as their schedule has picked up with quality opponents. Currently on a three-game slide, they welcome the Oklahoma City Thunder to town. Less than two weeks ago, these teams met in OKC and the game was over during the first quarter. Russell Westbrook was the only player who appeared to be playing hard, though that could have been due to the fact that the rest of the team had a played a close game the night before in Atlanta.
The Rockets look nothing like the team we saw beat the Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers at the turn of the calendar. Suddenly, Houston looks disinterested and burned out. James Harden is getting double-teamed with even more regularity and shooters have shrunk in the ensuing 4-on-3 moments. That’s caused Harden to force the issue more often, which hasn’t led to great results as defenses are now completely unafraid of leaving shooters open.
The mire for Houston is real, and it’s going to be sharply contrasted against the brand of basketball that the Thunder are playing. Chris Paul and company are 2-3 in their last five games, but they just handled a Blazers team that Houston struggled against just a few days ago.
OKC’s three-guard lineup is still hell on wheels, and the Thunder also have the bigs in Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel to give Harden and Westbrook trouble at the rim. Houston had some success against the Lakers and if not for a terrible third quarter, the game probably ends much closer. But right now, the Rockets have to prove they can put together a complete 48 minutes and that doesn’t seem likely to happen against a good team like OKC, especially with the early start time.
Prediction: The hits keep coming. OKC wins 112-104
Tip-off is at 4pm CT