Game 17 Preview: Oklahoma City vs. Houston

This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.

Time: 6:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Houston

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)

Enemy Blog(s): The Dream Shake

Backstory: Ah, so we meet the Rockets again, trying for our 3rd consecutive victory, something that hasn't happened since Ray Allen played for the team. Last time we saw them, we were pretty unsure of our future, as we had no real big name wins to our name, and we were in danger of losing 3 straight. But now, we feel a bit more confident. We're 9-7, which is good enough to make the NFL playoffs in some years, and we're coming off of quality wins against the Bucks and Jazz. Thus, the momentum is on our side.

The Rockets have stepped down from being an early season surprise, and are now just considered to be average. They've won the games that they should have (with recent wins against Minnesota and Sacramento) and lost the games that they should have (with losses against Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, and San Antonio). They have beaten the Lakers, Spurs, and Trailblazers in the past, which shows that they can compete, but not conquer.

Below: Matchups, Prediction

Matchups:

Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Chuck Hayes

Last time, both Hayes and Krstic completely failed at scoring, leaving their backups, Carl Landry and Nick Collison, to do the dirty work for them. I'd expect it to turn out the same way for Nenad Krstic, who can't do very well against quick defending centers, but I'd expect Hayes to do better this time, especially against Krstic's soft defense.

Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Luis Scola

Last time, Luis Scola took Jeff Green to town, and completely shut him down. If Jeff Green's 3s don't fall, the same will happen again. Scola is just that much better inside.

Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Shane Battier

Kevin Durant is the clear winner here, ass he's a much better scorer and rebounder. Shane Battier will still get his fair share of buckets, but I wouldn't expect a lot of rebounds.

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Trevor Ariza

Last time these two met, it was probably Thabos worst performance all year. Ariza went off for 21 Points, 5 Rebounds, and 6 Assists. This will probably be the key matchup. Can Thabo stop Ariza's relentless drives, or are we in for another scorefest? If I was a betting man, I'd opt for the later option. This could be Thabo's weakness - high flying dunkers.

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Aaron Brooks

Westbrook completely owned Brooks last time, as he was much quicker to the hoop, and he forced Brooks into 6 turnovers. I'd expect the same to happen here, as this is a game that favors drivers over shooters.

Battle of the Benches

The Rockets have a thin bench, consisting mostly of Landry, Budinger, and Lowry. But, they're well rested, so I wouldn't think of it as too much of a concern. The thunder need to make sure that their backup big men can stop Landry inside, and Budinger outside, as they're both excellent scorers off of the bench.On our side, I wouldn't expect anybody to add anything meaningful offensively except Collison, since he's an inside banger.

Coaching and Intangibles

They're both equally rested, but the Thunder are at home and on a two game win streak. I'd say the intangibles go our way.

Bottom Line

I'm sorry to say that I think this is where our win streak ends. The Rockets are a fast, inside scoring team that can dominate us inside or outside. The only way we can win is if Sefolosha can stop Ariza from scoring, but since he has no help off of the bench, I don't think that's likely.

Prediction:

Rockets 102, Thunder 91

How do you think the game will go? Vote in the Poll!

And, again, feel free to drop any comments you might have during, before, or after the game below. I'll be in the Ford Center cheering the team on, but I'll be back to write a recap later tonight. Go Thunder!

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