Throughout a hot-and-cold campaign, the sweltering Oklahoma City Thunder currently own the league’s foremost winning streak (six games). During this time, the triple-double chronicles of Russell Westbrook have reached a deafening timbre of global reception.
Over the Thunder’s past six contests, the NBA universe has sat in rapt awe while witnessing the historicity of Westbrook’s prodigious adventures. In addition, Oklahoma City has not tasted defeat since Nov. 23.
Due to this high-rise wave of momentum, the Thunder rest six games above .500 as Westbrook boasts an astounding seasonal stat-line of 31 ppg, 11.3 apg, and 10.9 trb.
Not even the savviest of prognosticators could have envisioned such a fortuitous plot-turn for the remade Thunder. However, it is real.
Amid all the pomp, Oklahoma City has enjoyed another protracted week of rest. The Thunder last played Monday night, defeating Atlanta 102-99. The 14-8 Northwest Division leaders again take the court Friday evening. OKC completes its truncated stretch with a Sunday showdown opposite Boston.
12/9 VS. Houston Rockets
Forecast: Unseasonably warm (90 degree-ish)
This summer, Mike D’Antoni proclaimed he would be satisfied if Houston began its regular-season trek at 10-10. At 15-7, and having won eight-of-ten, the Rockets are well ahead of initial expectations.
Houston’s early success is spearheaded by the offensive fluidity present on its freewheeling roster. While James Harden is a statistical monster, his supporting cast is also thriving. Overall, nine Houston players shoot at, or above, .350% from beyond the arc. This is no doubt why the Rockets lead the NBA in 3PM (14.0) and rank second in points per game (112.2).
Among Houston’s active four-game winning streak, the Rockets have scored 125-plus points on three occasions. The most seminal of these eruptions occurred opposite Golden State Dec. 1.
While dealing the Warriors a thrilling 132-127 double overtime defeat, Houston served notice to the NBA that its offensive prowess is to be feared.
Meanwhile, the Rockets’ Friday meeting with OKC will serve as a desired “revenge opportunity” for a 105-103 Nov. 16 setback. In that loss, a stifling Thunder defense limited All-NBA standout James Harden to 13 points on just 4-of-16 shooting. Furthermore, as OKC roared back during a pivotal final period, “the beard” was forced to commit two of his six costly turnovers.
When OKC and Houston resume acquaintances, they do so as two of the NBA’s hottest units. Something has to give when former cornerstone teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden collide.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma City Thunder 105, Houston Rockets 104
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Eric Gordon
The oft-injured hybrid guard has ignited the Rockets’ bench while averaging 23 ppg over his past six outings. During his prolific stretch, Gordon is also shooting well over 50% from both the field and arc to add yet another formidable dimension to Houston’s high-octane offense.
On Nov. 16, Gordon connected on a scanty 5-of-20 FGA. However, both he, and Houston are far different competitive entities entering this weekend’s marquee rematch.
If Oklahoma City is to attain a repeat victory over a streaking Houston squad, perimeter defense will be paramount. Halting the voracious attack of Harden and a suddenly red-hot Gordon must take top priority.
Even then, the Thunder must be acutely aware of Houston’s remaining bevvy of ever-present three-point threats.
12/11 VS. Boston Celtics
Forecast: Mild, with high winds
Following a tepid start, the Boston Celtics have found solid footing. Brad Stevens’ feisty bunch is much-improved from deep and enjoys spreading the wealth (2nd in NBA in apg).
Standouts Isaiah Thomas (26 ppg), Al Horford (15 ppg), and Avery Bradley (18 ppg) lead a balanced Celtics offense that has garnered seven wins in its last ten outings.
The Celtics’ most recent triumph came Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic. In a 117-87 blowout, Boston placed seven players in double-figure scoring — with Avery Bradley’s 23 leading all players.
Bradley’s stellar performance was much needed, as All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas is currently sidelined with a groin injury. It is not known how much time Thomas will miss, but judging by Thursday’s results, the Celtics are a team replete with depth.
This depth will be needed vs. Oklahoma City Sunday night, as the Celtics haven't enjoyed consecutive rest days since late November.
PREDICTION: OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 107, BOSTON CELTICS 103
ON THE DOPPLER RADAR: Avery Bradley
Through the season’s opening quarter, the two-way dynamo has authored the finest campaign of his career. Boston’s versatile 6’2 guard is averaging 18 ppg, 8 rpg, and 2.5 apg —while holding opponents -4.9% below their average FG%.
If Russell Westbrook is able to carry his triple-double streak into Sunday’s soiree, the tenacious defense of Bradley could imperil its advancement. A player of Bradley’s all-around caliber is of top value in today’s NBA.
Even if Thomas returns, the Thunder’s gameplan should include a healthy acknowledgement of Avery Bradley’s game-changing abilities.
This weekend’s home-festivities opposite quality iterations will speak volumes in determining the legitimacy of Oklahoma City’s recent success.
A solid team effort will be required of OKC to overcome both an unrelenting offensive juggernaut in Houston, and a tough-minded, and balanced Celtics group.
Come Monday, will Westbrook and Oklahoma City’s streaks still be intact?