Thunder vs. Rockets: Does No Lowry Mean No Win? (Game 42 Preview)

Records: Oklahoma City Thunder (32-9) at Houston Rockets (22-20)

Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

TV: Fox Sports Network Houston, Fox Sports Network Oklahoma

Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1), Newsradio 750 KXL

Enemy Blog(s): The Dream Shake, Red 94

Previous Meeting(s): Jan. 6, Jan. 7, Feb. 15 (Thunder lead series 2-1)

***

Well, would you look at that! The season is half over!

Oh yeah, it's been half over for some time now. We're actually closer to approaching the two thirds mark. Darn you, lockout!

As the season begins to enter its' most grueling stages, the Western Conference leading Thunder are beginning to show chinks in the armor. They've lost two games in the past two weeks, including a home loss to the middling Cavaliers. This hasn't necessarily been due to the loss of any player (though some might point to the losses of Sefolosha and Maynor), but rather due to the Thunder feeling the mid-season grind. Some games have them content to stand around and shoot jumpers, and it's a risky way of playing that doesn't give you the W every single night, no matter how good you are at it.

Their most recent outing was a blowout win against Charlotte, which doesn't really prove anything, since the Bobcat's have been mailing it in like the Pony Express. Houston doesn't exactly present a championship level test, but it does provide a reasonably good opponent against which the Thunder can get back into the groove of things.

Back on February 15th, the Rockets eeked out their first win over the Thunder this season. Their win was well-earned, as they knew how to exploit certain flaws in the Thunder's game. They knew how to slow down the pace of the game in order to limit the Thunder's fast break opportunities, and they cleverly lulled the Thunder into shooting way too many perimeter shots. Lastly, Chandler Parsons is one of the few near equals to Durant athletically, providing a serious challenge to the ever-present Durant isolation play.

However one thing is different about the Rockets tonight: They'll be playing without Kyle Lowry, who recently came down with a bacterial infection. All things considered, Goran Dragic isn't the worst guy in the world to replace him, and he should keep the ball moving well. But losing Lowry really takes a notch out of their scoring punch, and I don't think it's a deficiency they can overcome when facing the Thunder.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 102, Houston Rockets 95
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