This also counts as an open thread, so feel free to post your thoughts during the game here.
Time: 7:30 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
TV: Fox Sports Oklahoma, Fox Sports Houston
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): The Dream Shake
Backstory: The Thunder are coming off two close losses to the Lakers and Trail Blazers, and are looking to get back above .500 with a win against the Rockets, which is seeming just as possible now than it was at the start of the season, but in a different way. At the start of the season, I'd think we'd have a chance to win because we were a sub-par team facing a par team, but right now it's looking like we have a chance to win because we're a par team facing a good team.
The Rockets are the NBA's enigma. To the casual fan, losing Tracy McGrady, Ron Artest, Yao Ming, and Dikembe Mutombo while gaining no real talent but Trevor Ariza does not equal a 3-2 start, especially with quality wins at Utah and Portland. But, if you've been following the Rockets all along, you know that they've played without the aforementioned players before. And when they do, their whole game plan changes, but they still manage to win games and play as a .500 team. They score a lot, small balling it up and down the floor. Trevor Ariza has proven himself to be a lockdown defender, Shane Battier is still there providing defense and 3 balls, Luis Scola is one of the best scoring big men in the league, Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry can both score well, and Aaron Brooks is quietly becoming one of the leagues better point guards, something the Rockets have been searching for ever since they landed Yao. In reality, this team is no surprise. They've just finally been given a chance to show their stuff.
Below: Matchups, Prediction
Center: Nenad Krstic vs. Chuck Hayes
Chuck Hayes is pretty short for a Center, but that's not a good thing. It means that if Nenad Krstic even tries to make a jump shot, Hayes will be all over him. The only hope for Krstic to win this matchup will be to bang with Hayes inside or out rebound him somehow, but I really doubt that's going to happen. Hayes will easily outperform Krstic tonight.
Power Forward: Jeff Green vs. Luis Scola
Scola will almost certainly out-rebound Green here, but the real question will be who can out score the other. Scola is limited to an inside repertoire, and with Thomas and Collison being able to defend him in the post off of the bench, I think that Jeff Green will have more opportunities to score.
Small Forward: Kevin Durant vs. Shane Battier
Shane Battier is a good defender and can shoot a hell of a 3 ball, but I don't think there's any stopping Durant here. Durant will score about the same as normal, so his main concern should be with taking care of the ball and making sure he doesn't leave Battier open for gut-wrenching 3s. Still, Durant is the clear winner here.
Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha vs. Trevor Ariza
Two fierce defenders going at it. Can they combine to score more than 10 points? I have a feeling that Ariza will be all over the floor tonight, so he might be guarded by Durant or on fast breaks at times, so I see him winning this matchup.
Point Guard: Russell Westbrook vs. Aaron Brooks
At the start of the year, or at pretty much any other time, I'd give the win to Westbrook. But Brooks is looking like a mean, lean scoring and assisting machine right now. And Westbrook as been in a total slump. So, while I think Westbrook's performance won't be negatively affected, I think his numbers will, in the end, be slightly worse than Aaron Brooks'.
Battle of the Benches
For how good the Rockets are, they don't have much of a bench. Kyle Lowry and Carl Landry get heavy minutes, and you'll see dashes of Chase Budinger and/or David Andersen. They're all solid players, but in all truth, they're about the same as our tandem of Kevin Ollie, Etan Thomas, James Harden, and Nick Collison. If our bench plays like it has been recently, then it's a dead tie. But, if they revert back to the way they played the first couple of games, then I say the Rockets win this one.
Coaching and Intangibles
This one's a dead heat too, as we're both coming off a recent close loss to the Lakers, both of us have had surprisingly good starts, and both of us are well-rested. I guess I'll give it to the Rockets though, simply because they're at home and Rick Adelman is a darn good coach.
This should be a close, high scoring game, the perfect thing for a Thunder or Rocket fan to unwind to on a Friday Night. But, I don't see us slowing it down from the Rockets pace of game, and when we play at their pace and on their floor, they're going to win more often then not.
Rockets 105, Thunder 100
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 might be here during the game to drop my thoughts as well. Go Thunder!