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Oklahoma City Thunder opens preseason against Houston Rockets

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Even without newly re-signed Russell Westbrook, expect plenty of star power in this pre-season opener

Oklahoma City Thunder v Houston Rockets - Game Five Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Following high-end offseason adjustments, a recalibrated Oklahoma City Thunder surveys the new-look Houston Rockets tonight from Tulsa, Oklahoma’s BOK center.

Though these teams concluded a tense 16-17’ rivalry during the opening round of last spring’s playoffs, a feisty series the Rockets won 4-1, this evening’s encounter will introduce familiar All-Star faces to an emerging Western Conference arms race.

When the Thunder tips its first of four preseason tilts, prized summer acquisitions Paul George and Carmelo Anthony will gain their first-glance at the backcourt tandem of MVP-candidates, Chris Paul and James Harden.

And while exhibition minutes for each teams’ top performers should be minimal, nonetheless, the feeling out process between these star-laden opening lineups constitutes prime viewing.

Also noteworthy, after missing Summer League play, tonight marks OKC rookie Terrance Ferguson’s on-court Thunder debut. Likewise, when Oklahoma City meets Houston, a scrap for end-of-roster considerations will begin between incumbent Thunder point guard Semaj Christon and camp invitees Bryce Alford and Isaiah Canaan.

However, during the festivities, expect reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Russell Westbrook (PRP injection), Patrick Patterson (Knee), and Alex Abrines (Knee) to remain sidelined.

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (47-35, 2016-17’) vs. HOUSTON ROCKETS (55-27, 2016-17’)

  • Venue: Bank Of Oklahoma Center, Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Date: October 3
  • Time: 8:00 PM EDT
  • TV: NBA TV

Thunder vs. Rockets Injury Reports and Projected Starting Lineups

As mentioned, Oklahoma City will be without the services of Westbrook, Patterson, and Abrines. Houston lists PJ Tucker (Hamstring) as day-to-day and Cameron Oliver (Hand) as out.

Projected Starting Lineups

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER:

  • Point Guard: Raymond Felton
  • Shooting Guard: Andre Roberson
  • Small Forward: Paul George
  • Power Forward: Carmelo Anthony
  • Center: Steven Adams

HOUSTON ROCKETS:

  • Point Guard: Chris Paul
  • Shooting Guard: James Harden
  • Small Forward: Trevor Ariza
  • Power Forward: Ryan Anderson
  • Center: Clint Capela

Three Things To Watch:

  1. How will James Harden and Chris Paul fit together in Houston?

After a sublime campaign in which Harden ignited a powerful Houston offense from the point guard position, some question the Rockets’ impetus to acquire 32-year-old Chris Paul. Now, Harden must accommodate Paul’s inclusion by moving back to the off-guard position.

Further, each marquee player is ball-dominant and at peak-efficiency when initiating offense.

Tonight will provide a first look at the pairs’ on-court chemistry.

2) How will Paul George and Carmelo Anthony share offensive opportunities?

With Westbrook out, and Raymond Felton filling in, obviously, the larger answer to this question becomes a bit skewed as the “big three” will occupy major concurrent minutes and field goal looks this season.

However, tonight, All-Star volume-scoring wings Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, like Harden and Paul, have a chance to begin sorting through any initial chemistry issues.

3) Which roster-hopeful guard will emerge as Russ misses pre-season action?

During a truncated four-game preseason, Semaj Christon, Bryce Alford, and combo-guard Isaiah Canaan will battle for third-point guard considerations, as Russell Westbrook’s absence opens opportune minutes for each.

Last season, 24-year-old Christon held off Ronnie Brewer during exhibition play to earn a Thunder roster spot. Can the embattled second-year camp invitee do the same opposite Alford and Canaan?