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Houston Rockets Game Day: Rockets Face Desperate Thunder Squad

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Game Day:

The Rockets prepare for the second game of their back to back series against formidable opponents. By not taking advantage last night in Orlando the Rockets missed an opportunity, but more importantly have put unnecessary pressure on themselves to beat a rested Thunder team who are desperate for wins.

Oklahoma enters the night tenth in the West, an unfamiliar position for a team many selected to be among the top contenders to win the West and many pundits choice as the eventual champions. A preseason injury to last seasons MVP: Kevin Durant followed by an injury to Russell Westbrook in the second game of the season put the Thunder squarely behind the eight ball as they quickly fell behind in the ever competitive West.  For the Rockets who currently reside fourth in the West, tonight presents the first of two very difficult games as their next contest features the West’s best Golden State Warriors.

Jul 30, 2014; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Team USA guard Kevin Durant (right) dribbles the ball against guard James Harden (left) during a team practice session at Mendenhall Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Team Rank:

Houston: 4th in West, 2nd in Southwest Division

Oklahoma City: 10th in West, 2nd in Pacific Division (11 games back of Portland, 3 games back of eighth seed in West)

Offense: Houston: 18th (102.6 points per 100 possessions) – Oklahoma: 21st (101.1 points per 100 possessions)

Defense:  Houston: 2nd (allowing 98.0 points per 100 possessions) – Oklahoma: 8th (allowing 100.9 points per 100 possessions)

Net: Houston: 8th with a positive point differential of +4.6 – Oklahoma: 14th with a positive point differential of +0.3

Pace: Houston: 7th with a pace of 97.80 possessions over 48 minutes – Oklahoma: 11th with a pace of 96.6 possessions over 48 minutes

Points Per Game: Houston: 14th  –  Oklahoma: 19th

Rebounds Per Game: Houston: 9th – Oklahoma: 2nd

Assists Per Game:  Houston: 23rd – Oklahoma: 30th

Opposition Points Per game: Houston: 3rd –  Oklahoma: 9th

Stats via nba.com

Notable Stats:

  • In their last 3-games Oklahoma City has scored just 90 points per 100 possessions.
  • As with most teams the Rockets hold a distinct advantage over OKC in three point shooting where they rank first in attempts (33.8) and makes (11.8) while OKC rank near the middle of the pack: 14th in attempts (22.4) and 16th in makes (7.2).
  • The above stat becomes interesting as Houston are second best in defense of the three holding teams to 31% while OKC rank fifth holding teams to 33%
  • OKC rank third in holding opponents to 43% from the field (Golden State and Portland are the teams who rank ahead of OKC)

stats nba.com

More from Space City Scoop

Bench:

  • On the season Houston ranks at the bottom of bench stats scoring 25.5 points (27th) with a negative -10.5  efficiency (29th) while OKC rank 14th in efficiency with a positive +0.6  and 17th in scoring with 33 points.
  • Recently these stats have changed with the addition of Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Alexey Shved resulting in Houston climbing to 16th in scoring 32.6 points in their past ten games and 13th in efficiency with a positive +2.3 differential.
  • While the above stat may appear to offer Houston an advantage it’s not the case as Oklahoma is also experiencing growth in this area with the return of Durant and Westbrook and the addition last week of Dion Waiters. OKC’s bench efficiency has improved to top 1o in their past ten games to a positive +4.8 differential and eleventh in points during this period scoring 36.6 points per game

stats: hoopsstats.com

Key Match-up:

The obvious match-up has the two teams top stars facing each other: James Harden and Dwight Howard versus Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook

While Harden remains close to Durant and Westbrook he’ll look to put aside his relationship for a couple hours as the Rockets look to get back on track, especially considering their next game features the West’s best team: Golden State Warriors. For their part the Thunder will try to utilize their big 3 of Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka to power them toward the win. They will definitely arrive as the more desperate team, so the Rockets need to channel a desperation they aren’t currently feeling given their record.

However, the key match-up may well be the remainder of the teams’ players with specific focus on the bench where Corey Brewer and Josh Smith will face Dion Waiters and OKC’s youngsters.

Trevor Ariza will have his hands full guarding Durant as will Brewer guarding Waiters.

The Thunder will likely have Westbrook and Roberson take turns on Harden while Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams will look to slow Dwight Howard

Walking Wounded:

Oklahoma:

  • Mitch McGary is out with an injured foot

Houston:

  • Patrick Beverley is listed as probable after suffering a knee contusion in the game last night
  • Terrence Jones remains out with nerve damage to his foot

Keys To Winning:

  • Come out with early energy and stay close early. Allowing OKC to get out to an early lead could result in giving the Thunder too much confidence and put the Rockets in a catch-up situation
  • Rebounding: OKC are second best in the league on the boards. For Houston to win they’ll need to either win this battle or keep it very close
  • Though the emphasis will be on limiting Westbrook and Durant, the truth is the bench may be where the game is won or lost. The Rockets will need their stars to keep them close or ahead, but shutting down OKC’s bench will be key if the Rockets are to be successful.

The Pick:

Home teams generally receive a 1.5 point advantage so the fact the odds makers have Oklahoma City favored to win by 2.5 points is telling. Personally I’m leaning toward OKC as well given they enter rested and are more desperate for the win. The Thunder need to start making a move upward for a chance to make the post season, so I’m picking OKC by 5 points.

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