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Preview: Harden’s Rockets are back at the Thunder

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Yeah, it’s time for Russ’ seventh straight you-know-what. And the Thunder’s seventh straight you-know-what.

Are those dudes even trying on defense?
W. Bennett Berry

The Thunder have had six straight wins, Russ has had six straight wins, and OKC’s last game was three days ago. With a record of 14-8 and over a quarter of the season knocked out, OKC is poised to make a playoff push. The Rockets, the other team in tonight’s contest, come in at 15-7. The Rockets have been especially hot in the past few weeks, winning 6 of their last 7 and 9 of their last 11.

Last time these two teams met, the Thunder won a 105-103 thriller. All of the Thunder’s bigs were held to single digits, but a 28 point performance from Oladipo and a 30 point performance from Westbrook pulled OKC through. This time, OKC should do all they can to establish their bigs, especially during bench time.

At this point, the Rockets are the league’s top three point team in terms of makes and attempts. The Rockets are 5th when it comes to percentage. So it is definitely to OKC’s disadvantage that OKC likes to play fast. But the Rockets aren’t going to run with OKC, because they aren’t as athletic. The Rockets will be riding the talent of James Harden, otherwise pacing and spacing or picking and rolling.

The key to victory for OKC is offensive rebounding. The Rockets are the League’s fourth best team in this category, while the Thunder are 10th. But OKC can dominate if they focus on the oboards, because they are so big. And if OKC’s bigs stay up on offensive boards, that will encourage the Rockets to run. As long as OKC avoids turnovers and uses this strategy, they’ll win. If not, it will take a couple of special individual performances to carry the Thunder through.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 103, Houston Rockets 99

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Injuries: Cameron Payne (Out)

Time: 7 PM

Place: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

TV: ESPN, FSOK, RTSW