Look towards the bottom of the post for a Pre-Game chat I'm doing with Yoni Pollak of House of Houston! Click the banner to submit your questions, if you dare!
|2013-2014 NBA Season|
|January 16th, 2014|
|The Toyota Center, Houston, Texas|
|8:30 PM Central Standard Time|
|TV: Turner Network Television Only|
|Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM/640 AM), SportsTalk 790 AM|
|Injury Report: Russell Westbrook (Out), Aaron Brooks (Questionable), Greg Smith (Doubtful), Omer Asik (Out), Patrick Beverley (Out)|
|Previous Matchups: Dec 29th (Thunder Lead Season Series 1-0)|
|Reggie Jackson||PG||Jeremy Lin|
|Thabo Sefolosha||SG||James Harden|
|Kevin Durant||SF||Chandler Parsons|
|Serge Ibaka||PF||Terrence Jones|
|Kendrick Perkins||C||Dwight Howard|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|98.7 (6th)||Pace||98.1 (8th)|
|106.0 (7th)||ORtg||107.3 (4th)|
|98.2 (3rd)||DRtg||102.0 (10th)|
The last time these two teams faced off, it was a blowout. But most who watched that game didn't believe that the Rockets were at any serious fault. They were playing their fourth game in five nights, and the Thunder were riding a wave of post-Westbrook tenacity.
Tonight presents the Rockets in a very similar situation to the one they were in last time. They're coming home from a three game road trip, and just finished a tightly contested matchup in New Orleans last night. Still, to expect the game to be so lopsided this time around is downright foolish.
How DID the Thunder win that game so handily, though? Well, Kendrick Perkins did a great job keeping Dwight Howard away from the rim, limiting him to 4-13 shooting and finally providing some justification for holding onto his job. Meanwhile, Thabo Sefolosha did a number on James Harden, who had arguably his worst game of the season. On the other end, the Thunder did a great job of attacking the rim, moving the ball, and not taking too many threes.
Looking back on it, it's almost as if that was an entirely different Thunder team. Defensively, the Thunder are as good as ever. Offensively, they've been a shadow of what they were able to produce that night. The problems in this category are numerous, ranging from poor shot selection to a lack of shot creators. But the heart of the issue is that this offense is streaky, and more than likely the Thunder are going to have to rely on another major defensive shutdown of a key Rocket player if they're expecting to win this game handily.
Also potentially affecting tonight's game is the Thunder's recent signing of Royal Ivey. Ivey hasn't been a flashy player throughout his career, maxing out his averages at 6 points and 2 assists seven years ago. But he's known for a very pesky brand of defense, and is known as a very popular locker room presence. He was on the team during their runs to the Western Conference Finals in 2011 and NBA Finals in 2012, seeing very little time on the floor. It's doubtful that he takes time away from Derek Fisher or Jeremy Lamb, but who knows?
Ivey's signing also represented a fairly clear statement from Thunder management. The roster, as we know it, will likely be the one to complete the season. Ivey's contract essentially replaces that of Gomes, and rids the Thunder of the small amount of cap room that they could have used as trade bait. With the signing coming at the same time that the Warriors are picking up Jordan Crawford for peanuts, it's enough to make one uneasy. But, like it or not, the Thunder don't care about winning without Westbrook, and they think Sefolosha is an essential part of our championship picture.
As for tonight? Well, the going could get rough. But a win now could mean a lot come April, and the Thunder would do well for themselves to secure some positive momentum heading into the All-Star Break.
What do you think about tonight's game? Let us know in the poll and comments!
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