Thunder vs Rockets: Pregame Primer
Thunder (53-23, 22-14 road) vs. Rockets (37-39, 20-17 home)
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 1300 AM The Buzz Tulsa)
Time: 2:30 PM CST
Team Comparisons (per NBA.com/Stats)
- Offensive Rating: Thunder – 110.0 (2nd), Rockets – 104.8 (9th)
Defensive Rating: Thunder – 102.8 (11th), Rockets – 106.0 (22nd)
Have you ever had that one family event that you “had
” to attend just because of who birthed you or who you married? And in your mind (or in discussion with your significant other) you said, “I’ll go, say hello to everyone, have a drink, and then slip out.” To which your significant other probably shot you THAT look. (No, not the Jordan face meme look.)
Well, that’s where the Oklahoma City Thunder are at this point in the season. They are in Marshawn Lynch territory. They only show up to the games so they won’t get fined. For all intents and purposes, the Thunder are locked into the 3rd seed in the West. There is no way they can catch the San Antonio Spurs for 2nd, and if the Los Angeles Clippers really wanted to battle for the 3rd spot, they would’ve boarded Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, and JJ Redick on a plane to Oklahoma City on Thursday.
The team is just going through the motions at this point. They will likely sit their main players (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, and Serge Ibaka) at various times in the next week and a half. Which means significant run for Oklahoma City Blue alumnus Josh Huestis, Mitch McGary, and Cameron Payne. The team will likely be evaluating them to see where they fit into the team’s plans for the future. Hopefully Durant will pack a couple suits for this upcoming road trip, so he doesn’t have to be active and receive a DNP-CD like some common scrub.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the regular season between the Thunder and Rockets. The Thunder lead the season series 2-1. The Rockets got their first victory of the season against the Thunder in early November. Since then, the Thunder have won two closely contested games by 4 and 8 points, respectively.
The Rockets come into the game with a 37-39 record, having lost 6 of their last 9, in what is likely a make or break stretch of the season for them. They’ve fallen to 9th in the West and sit 1 game behind the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz. They’ve been one of the most surprising disappointments in the season as they were coming off a trip to the Western Conference Finals the season before. They haven’t had any real big injury concerns, but are probably one of the worst teams in the league in terms of team chemistry.
The rumored in-fighting between James Harden and soon to be free-agent center Dwight Howard has cast a veil over the team that they have been struggling to get out from under for the entire season. Whether its Howard’s life-long struggles for more offensive touches or Harden’s insistence on playing defense against the back of players’ heads, the two superstars for the Rockets are guiding them towards the ground at Mach-1 speeds.
The rest of the team, surprisingly, is made for those two players, but has struggled at points throughout the season. Trevor Ariza and Patrick Beverly go on streaks where they make mostly everything they take from deep (and the Rockets usually win), but then they also go on streaks in the opposite direction (of which the Rockets usually lose). The addition of Michael Beasley has helped on the offensive end, but a lot like Harden, he struggles on the defensive end of the floor. Clint Capela and Donatas Motiejunas have struggled of late and Terrence Jones is more likely to be seen on the back of a milk carton than on the court.
3 Big Things1. Desperate Team
The Rockets will likely bring everything they have at the Thunder to try and secure a victory. They are currently outside the playoff picture, but just by a game. They are tied in the season series against the Utah Jazz, but currently hold a better division record and conference record (the next two tie-breakers after head to head record). They lead the season series against the Mavericks 2-1, but play them in Dallas after the Thunder game. A win against the Thunder would allow the margin of error for the Rockets to grow that much more for their final 5 games.2. Beverly vs. Westbrook
Is the hatred between the Thunder and Patrick Beverly even a thing anymore? In the last game they played, Beverly went over to Durant and Westbrook and basically dapped them up and homie-hugged them after the game. Something that would have been unheard of a year ago. Has Reggie Jackson replaced Beverly a persona non grata in the eyes of the Thunder (and more specifically, Westbrook)? I would surmise YES!3. Dwight Howard
If there is one player that gets under Howard’s skin, its Steven Adams. Howard has gotten so frustrated against Adams and the Thunder that he was ejected in one of their previous meetings this season. Its almost a guarantee that Howard racks up a tech against the Thunder when he plays against Adams. Keep doing what you are doing Steven.
James Harden – I dislike his game, but he is a wizard with the ball. No lead is safe against the Rockets if Harden gets it going. He can stroke from deep or get your entire team in foul trouble.