Time: 7:00 PM Central Standard Time
Place: The Ford Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
TV: Fox Sports Net Houston, KSBI-TV 52
Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1)
Enemy Blog(s): The Dream Shake
For Player Matchups, go here.
Backstory: I was wrong about most of what's happened so far, so let's hope I'm wrong about this game, too. Because I don't see it as being anything other than a loss. So far, we've yet to be competitive against this Rockets team in 3 previous meetings, and they've only gotten stronger since.
Some might think their trading away of Carl Landry, a player who's had major success against the Thunder, will lead to a Rockets loss. Personally, I'd beg to differ, because in place of him, they have Kevin Martin, a heavily inside-oriented guard who's dropped 27 Points on us while with the Kings. And they still have Luis Scola, who is arguably better than Carl Landry. Lastly, they have their star stopper in Trevor Ariza, who is capable of limiting Kevin Durant's offensive efficiency, if nothing else.
So, the disadvantages are laid out. How do the Thunder actually win this game? Well, it starts and ends with protecting the inside. I know I say this almost every game, but it's true. We can't let Kevin Martin and company run down to the post and get fouled or score every single play. One solution might be to try to play their game by eschewing our bigs altogether and just playing Green at Center. Or, you could go the other route and throw two bigs out there. Trying something unconventional can't hurt us too much, as we've already lost to this team 3 times while trying to play our own game.
Also, in order to win, the Thunder are going to have to share the load scoring wise. We can't rely on Kevin Durant here as we do in most other games, so you're going to have to see Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook both get at least 15, with one or two others getting into the double digits. This will be pretty difficult to accomplish, especially without Harden.
Lastly, we're going to have to try to force the Rockets to go to their bench. Shane Battier, David Andersen, Jordan Hill, and Jared Jeffries are all out for the game. This is going to force them to play their starters for a long time, and give Hilton Armstrong some minutes. But, that shouldn't hurt the Rockets too much, as I don't think we have the scoring power off of our own bench to truly take advantage of the Rocket reserves while they're out on the floor. Thus, I think the Thunder are going to lose this game, and continue the streak to 3 losses.
Prediction: Houston 101, Oklahoma City 95