2011-2012 Game 16 Preview: Harden and Sampson return to OKC in Thunder-Rockets Clash

He's baaaack.... - Scott Halleran

It's going to be one crazy night in Oklahoma City. Of course, we all know about the storyline of James Harden returning to Oklahoma City only two months after he left, while the woulds are still fresh. But there's more to the story.

2012-2013 NBA Season
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The Houston Rockets (7-7)
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The Oklahoma City Thunder (11-4)
November 28th, 2012
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7:00 PM CST
NBA Television, Fox Sports Net Oklahoma, Comcast Sports Net Houston
WWLS the Sports Animal (98.1), KBME 790 AM
Enemy Blogs: The Dream Shake, Red94
Previous Meetings: None
Probable Starters
Jeremy Lin PG Russell Westbrook
James Harden SG Thabo Sefolosha
Patrick Patterson SF Kevin Durant
Chandler Parsons PF Serge Ibaka
Omer Asik C Kendrick Perkins

It's going to be one crazy night in Oklahoma City. Of course, we all know about the storyline of James Harden returning to Oklahoma City only two months after he left, while the woulds are still fresh.

But Houston arrived in Oklahoma City late in the afternoon, because they were all in Minnesota to attend the funeral of Kevin McHale's daughter. Obviously, we all wish the best for Kevin McHale and his family as they attempt to pick up the pieces from that horrible situation.

Some might think that this will be a negative for the Rockets. But as situations like "Win one for the Gipper" have told us, emotional moments can really help to lift a team's will to win. I remember when Chris Andersen was suspended because he violated the league's drug policy. The OKC Hornets returned to the floor next day and thrashed the superior Memphis Grizzlies, dedicating the win to Chris. I could see a similar situation playing out here.

Another interesting side effect of this situation is the fact that the Rockets head assistant coach, Kelvin Sampson, will be the interim head coach tonight. This might not be a big deal on the surface, but when you consider that Sampson is one of the most accomplished Sooner Basketball coaches of all time, it will be interesting to see whether Thunder fans give him a cheer. It will be his first time as a head coach in the Oklahoma City metro area since he left the Sooners in 2006. (Unless you count the Sooner alumni game two years ago.)

Getting to the basketball aspect of tonight's game, it's clear the Rockets are underdogs. They had a solid win over New York last Friday and are definitely capable of outscoring the Thunder. They love to get out on the break, and they're a great rebounding team. But turnovers are their achilles heel, and there are few teams better than the Thunder at exploiting that. (Just ask the Bobcats.)

So from a basketball perspective, I think the Thunder will win tonight's game. But from an emotional perspective, you've really gotta see the Rockets as a great upset pick. We'll see how things shake out, but I'm predicting a narrow Rocket victory, just because of the whole situation surrounding this game.

Prediction: Houston Rockets 111, Oklahoma City Thunder 110.

If you are looking for tickets to upcoming games, you can find Oklahoma City Thunder tickets here.

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