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Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: First matchup preview

Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images
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The new season is 39 days away! What kind of matchups will the Rockets and Thunder present this year?

The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder are familiar foes in the Western conference. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden was fun to watch last season, especially in the playoffs. Add Chris Paul and Paul George to the mix and the matchup becomes even more fun. So with that in mind, who will come out on top when these teams meet for the first time on Christmas day?

Lets analyze the first Thunder vs. Rockets matchup of the 2017-18 season.

Houston Rockets

PG: Chris Paul

SG: James Harden

SF: Trevor Ariza

PF: Ryan Anderson

C: Clint Capela

Oklahoma City Thunder:

PG: Russell Westbrook

SG: Paul George

SF: Andre Roberson

PF: Patrick Peterson

C: Steven Adams

Analysis

There are some fun matchups here, assuming all players remain healthy up to that point in the season. The backcourt of both teams look evenly matched, despite James Harden’s defensive problems. However, it is the frontcourt that looks to favor the Thunder, but only a slight advantage.

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The battle of great duos starts here. The finesse and ease of CP3 paired with the almost ballerina-like glide of Harden against the force that is Westbrook and the battle hardened George. Finesse vs. Force. Defensively, both backcourts have some liabilities. Westbrook takes too many risks, Harden at times is lackadaisical on defense. However, George and CP3 are both solid at their positions and have shown they can guard multiple positions before. Four stars in the backcourt. One even matchup to start.

It seems like the battle will be won in the frontcourt in this matchup. For the Thunder, Patrick Peterson is a great pickup. A forward that can shoot and defend paired with improving big man Steven Adams will give most teams problems. However, its only a slight advantage. If Ryno can help Capela on the boards, combined with his offense, the matchup is more favorable for the Rockets. Slight advantage Thunder in this department.

Due to Roberson’s lack of offense, the small forward matchup favors Houston in this case. While he is a great defender, Trevor Ariza is as good a defender, and a better shooter than Roberson. In addition to that, look for Ariza to defend George often in this game. Because of Ariza’s offensive ability, advantage Rockets in the small forward department.

Because of the star power present in this game, it will be an intense and high scoring affair. It will be tough on both teams, but these starting lineups will certainly go at it.

Overall Starting Lineup Advantage: Rockets, but a narrow advantage

Next up. Projected bench lineups for both squads.

Rockets

Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, Luc Mbah a Moute, Nene Hilario, CP3/Harden

Thunder

Raymond Felton, Alex Abrines, Doug McDermott, Jerami Grant, Enes Kanter

In addition to the sixth man of the year the Rockets added some nice defensive pieces to this bench unit. While either Harden or CP3 will be present at all times, Coach D’Antoni has a great balance of offense and defense with this unit.

Make no mistake. The Thunder too have some nice bench pieces. Abrines and McDermott have some scoring in them, and Felton is nice veteran piece. However, Kanter is still a defensive liability and will be exposed if he doesn’t improve on that end. This is also a Thunder bench that folded when Westbrook came off the court. Can the Thunder keep up offensively with this Rockets team? Will Westbrook be allowed to rest at all during the game? One thing is certain. This Rockets bench will test the Thunder’s will once again.

Bench Advantage: Rockets

The Rockets and Thunder are no strangers to each other. Last season Russell Westbrook won the MVP. Second to him? Oh yeah, that guy James Harden. Watch out “Brodie.” Harden and his beard are coming for you.

The first meeting will be in OKC this season. Last season the two teams played four times, with the Rockets winning the season series 3-1.

Both teams are well coached. Billy Donovan has done a fine job in his first two seasons in OKC. Mike D’Antoni took a disgruntled Rockets team and transformed them into a contender once again.

The Rockets and Thunder will play three times this season. My prediction for the season series is that the Rockets win 2-1. The Thunder will win one home matchup. I believe all three games will be close. No blowouts, with all three games on national television.

While the game will be in OKC, remember one thing Rockets fans. Santa always wears red. Therefore, look for Santa to spoil the party in OKC and deliver a Rockets victory.

Next: Is Harden the Modern Day Ginobili?

There are plenty of first matchup previews coming up so stay tuned to Space City Scoop for the unveiling of the other matchups against every team! They’ll keep coming until the season starts! Be sure to comment your thoughts on the series in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!

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