Time: 7:00 PM CST
Fresh off an underwhelming victory last night in Cleveland, the Thunder (6-4) are returning to Oklahoma City tonight for a showdown with the Houston Rockets (4-5). Although Russell Westbrook will again be sidelined due to a left ankle sprain, this one features plenty of marquee names. James Harden and Chris Paul are the familiar faces when it comes to the Rockets. However, the story in this one is the much-anticipated return of Carmelo Anthony — the sixth man for this Houston squad after refusing such a role a season ago in OKC.
Tip-off is at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on TNT. The Rockets are 4-point road favorites according to Odds Shark.
- Russell Westbrook: Out — Ankle
- Andre Roberson: Out — Knee
- Eric Gordon: Questionable — Hip
- Brandon Knight: Out — Knee
- Nene: Out — Calf
- Michael Carter Williams: Out — Illness
Rockets: Chris Paul, James Harden, James Ennis, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela
What to Watch For
Sixth Man Melo: Carmelo Anthony comes in as the sixth man for the Rockets, and is averaging 14.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game so far in the 2018-19 season. Like last year in Oklahoma City, he’s been hit or miss on a game-by-game basis, as he’s scored 20+ on three separate occasions while failing to reach double-figures in five others. It will be interesting to see what sort of reception he gets from the fans in Oklahoma City when he checks in for the first time tonight, although I expect him to be greeted warmly (no reason to boo this man). That may turn sour if he catches fire at any point — which would be about right given his disappointing stretch in a Thunder uniform.
The Big Men: The Steven Adams/Clint Capela match-up is the most interesting of the evening, given that we’re being robbed of the Westbrook/CP3 showdown at point guard. Adams is off to his best season yet, averaging 13.4 points and 10.6 rebounds. With Capela coming in averaging 15.6 points and 11.3 rebounds of his own, the big man who prevails in this individual match-up will give his team a big boost toward winning the game.
Wake Up, PG: Despite the Thunder escaping Cleveland with a win last night, Paul George didn’t have the stat line you’d expect without Westbrook in the lineup. George shot 7-of-16 from the field (1-of-3 from deep), en route to 18 points and 7 rebounds. He’s shooting 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from downtown so far this season, and the Thunder will need more out of their leader tonight with Westbrook sidelined. Much more.
Dre Would Be Nice: With James Harden (27.7 PPG, 8.2 APG, 5 RPG) coming to town, this is one of those nights that Andre Roberson’s absence on the defensive end will be felt most. Look for the Beard to attack the Thunder’s current shooting guard rotation all night, perhaps forcing George to take on that match-up defensively. I still think Abdel Nader has some value against opponents like this one, but as he was just assigned to the Oklahoma City Blue, that will have to wait. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is another guy I’d like to see a bit more of against Harden — but he’s appeared in just three games (1.7 minutes per contest).
Super Schroder: Dennis Schroder provided the offense last night in Cleveland, scoring a season-high 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting. While the scoring was certainly acceptable, he failed to record an assist in 34 minutes of action. If the Thunder want to take down the Rockets, they’ll need more from him in terms of being a facilitator. You won’t win many games when the team finishes with 10 total assists as they did last night against the Cavaliers.
Slow Starts: Picked by many to finish in the top three of the Western Conference, the Thunder and Rockets both stumbled out of the gate to begin the 2018-19 season. Houston needs a win tonight in OKC to reach .500 for the first time. The Thunder, sitting at 6-4 after 10 games, needed a six-game winning streak to get there. Both teams have been playing better recently, as Houston comes in having won three straight. Someone’s streak will come to an end tonight in OKC.