Rockets vs. Thunder
After finishing 3-0 on a mini Eastern Conference road trip, the streaking Oklahoma City Thunder will be returning home to Chesapeake Arena to face off against the Houston Rockets.
Houston will be looking to bounce back after losing to the Atlanta Hawks three nights ago, a game in which the Rockets stayed competitive until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter. The Hawks were able to pull away through a series of Rockets turnovers which lead to easy transition baskets on the other end.
Oklahoma City on the other hand will look to continue their dominant play as Durant and Company have won four in a row, knocking off the Philadelphia 76ers and playoff bruisers such as the Portland Trailblazers, Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers.
Venue: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Game Time: 8:00 PM ET – 7:00 PM CT
TV: TNT, Sportsnet One
Radio: 790 AM, WWLS 98.1 FM OKC/930AM (ESP)
This will be the third match up between the two ball clubs with the season series sitting at 1-1
- 11/02/2015: Houston 110 – 105 OKC
- 1/29/2015: OKC 116 – 108 HOU
- James Harden (Ankle) – Questionable
- Kyle Singler (Back) – Questionable
Keys To Winning
Limit Second Chance Opportunities: The Thunder are perhaps the most well rounded rebounding team on both ends of the floor due to their activity level around the rim to go along with their size and depth in the front court. Houston has had trouble keeping opposing teams off the glass this season ranking 28th overall in Opponent Offensive Rebounds per game giving up 11.7 (per Teamrankings.com). If Houston wants any chance at staying competitive in tonight’s contest, the importance of finding your man and boxing him out as soon as a shot goes up can’t be stressed enough as Oklahoma City ranks first overall in Offensive Rebounds per game with 12.9.
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Keep Westbrook Out the Lane: Russell Westbrook by all means is a lunatic. He moves at the pace only a man who is running from the cops can move at. His brave sense of fashion suggests that he can indeed time travel. He is sometimes mistaken for a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. And to top it all off, he’s without question a top-5 player in the NBA.
Not a single point guard in the league can defend Westbrook because of his unfair combination of size, athleticism and fearlessness. Rather, teams have been successful in hoping his poor decision making at times becomes detrimental to his team in vital situations.
One way to slow down the speed demon is to (like most athletic guards) sag off and force Russ into becoming a jump shooter. The Thunder will look to spread the floor and run a lot of high ball screens for Westbrook putting the opposing big man in a dilemma on whether to hedge or sag off.
In the previous match up between the two teams, Rockets head coach J.B Bickerstaff had both Dwight and Capela hedge hard on ball screen action in hopes of forcing Westbrook to extend his dribble towards the sideline.
Attack the Rim: As dangerous of an offensive team as the Thunder can be with the combination of Durant and Westbrook, their defense as a unit has been abysmal all season long. Nothing in this world comes free with the exception of lane penetration against the Thunder. With an emphasis of contesting the three ball, defensively the Thunder are reluctant to help which opens up so many scoring opportunities at the rim for opposing teams. According to NBA.com/stats, the Thunder are giving up shots “Less Than 10 Feet” from the rim at a league high frequency rate of 46.6% while ranking fourth overall in shots given up “Less Than 6 Feet” from the rim with a frequency rate of 34.1%.
Cut Down On Unforced Turnovers: At this point of the season you can only hope for the Rockets to stay potent offensively and give up all hope of any defensive ramp ups. Against a lack luster defensive team, Houston must stay aggressive offensively to make up for the lack of efforts defensively. The Thunder WILL give up points, Houston just needs to make sure that no offensive possession goes to waste with no unforced turnovers.
The odds makers have Oklahoma City as 9 point favorites with a total over/under of 222.
If James Harden is good to go, I like Houston’s chances of pulling off an upset tonight in Chesapeake Arena. The Thunder are in a slightly tough scheduling spot with tonight being their first game home after a mini three game road trip through the East. Teams in this situation in the past have shown to come out flat in front of their home crowd whether it be because of fatigue or sloppy play in attempts of “wow-ing” the home fans. The Rockets are in survivor mode for the final three spots for playoff seeding and are coming off a tough loss against the surging Atlanta Hawks so I expect a balls to the wall effort from them tonight. Houston has shown to match up well against Oklahoma City in the past because of their inability to defend Harden’s lane penetration and I expect much of the same tonight.
Rockets – 115
Thunder – 111
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