Preview 80 of 82: Thunder @ Rockets
Time: 7:30 PM CT
Radio: WWLS (98.1 FM OKC/97.1 FM Tulsa)
The Oklahoma City Thunder (45-34) finds itself in a precarious position ahead of tonight’s contest against the Houston Rockets (64-15). OKC is currently seventh in the Western Conference, leading the eighth-placed Timberwolves by a half game. Its lead on ninth-place Denver is just one game. Depending on how the game shakes out, coupled with results from around the league, the Thunder could be in fifth by the end of the night. With a series of bad breaks, OKC could slide into ninth and out of the playoffs with two games remaining in the regular season.
Losers of four out of the last five, the Thunder simply must be better tonight against a Rockets team that boasts the best record in the NBA. If there’s a time for Paul George to snap out his shooting slump and for Carmelo Anthony to come alive in the offense, that time is now. OKC will look to its star trio and Steven Adams to pace the effort in an attempt to win the season-series against Houston.
Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM CT and the game will be televised on ABC. The Thunder is currently 6-point underdog according to Bovada.
- Andre Roberson: Out – Knee
- Eric Gordon: Questionable — Ankle
- Ryan Anderson: Out — Ankle
- Tarik Black: Out — Back
Rockets: Chris Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, PJ Tucker, Clint Capela
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Thunder O & D
Rockets O & D
Season series is tied 1-1
Dec 25: OKC 112, HOU 107 [BOX SCORE]
March 6: HOU 122, OKC 112 [BOX SCORE]
Defending the Three. The Rockets shoot an uncanny 42 three-pointers per game, seven more than any other team in the league. The Thunder has had an issue keeping teams from getting hot from long range, so the defense’s ability to guard the perimeter will be paramount.
Russ & Everybody Else. Westbrook went for 44 points on 15-of-26 shooting against the Warriors on Tuesday. Unfortunately, his teammates combined to shoot 20-of-67 — just under 30 percent. If he doesn’t get some help in this one, the Thunder will drop a game it desperately needs to win. That starts with George and Melo, who were 9-of-35 against Golden State and mired in recent struggles.
Slowing Houston’s Backcourt. James Harden comes in averaging 30.6 PPG, 8.7 APG, and 5.4 RPG. Corey Brewer and Paul George will be tasked with slowing him down. Meanwhile, Westbrook will draw the match-up with Chris Paul, who comes in averaging 18.6 points and 7.9 assists.
Chasing History. Westbrook needs to average 13.6 rebounds and 7.3 assists over the next three games to lock up a triple-double average for the second straight season. The rebounds will obviously be the tough part — but he grabbed 16 against the Warriors earlier this week. If he’s in the mood, look for him to be chasing down the boards.