The Oklahoma City Thunder (8-11) host the Houston Rockets (10-9) Wednesday for the second game in three days, this time looking to bounce back from a blowout loss suffered Monday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
OKC gave up 28 total 3-pointers - a Houston franchise record - as well as an NBA record-tying 11 triples in the first quarter of a 136-106 drumming. The Thunder have now lost two in a row and five of their last seven games while giving up an average of 121 points per game during that span.
“It does concern me,” veteran center Al Horford said of how the team’s defense has slipped recently. OKC gave up 147 points to Brooklyn Friday prior to the Houston matchup, a franchise record for the Nets.
“It’s difficult. I just believe the past two games, for whatever reason, we just haven’t started with that same energy and edge that we need to start the game. We need to do a better job of starting and staying consistent with what we’re trying to do so that we’re not in this position coming in on Wednesday.”
Emerging Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been listed as out after suffering a left knee sprain. SGA picked up the knock during Monday’s game and was able to finish the game. This appears to be a precautionary measure by the Thunder’s medical staff.
The Thunder will have to ratchet things up quickly in order to stop the surging Rockets, who have won six straight and have shaped into a playoff contender since trading former MVP James Harden to the Nets. John Wall, Christian Wood, and former OKC guard Victor Oladipo have formed an impressive trio followed by a bench/second unit averaging 102 points per 48 minutes, good for second-best in the league.
Defense seems to be the focus for Oklahoma City now that the team has fallen to 25th in the league in opponent points per game (107.2). Diagnault said his squad needs to get back to taking care of what it can control.
“Nobody likes to give up 130 points or however many 3s they made,” the first-year head coach said. “We need to find the stuff that we can control and try to continue to improve that. I think slumps are an emotional thing. We try to use process and fundamentals to remove the emotion and root down into the stuff that we can control and hopefully we’re a better team on Wednesday.”
The Thunder will now be without veteran guard George Hill for at least four weeks. Hill, who was averaging just under 12 points per game and three assists, had a procedure on his thumb. The team will also be without rookies Aleksej Pokusevski, Josh Hall, and Moses Brown as well as second-year guard Ty Jerome after all four were sent to the Oklahoma City Blue, the organization’s G-League team, Tuesday.
Oklahoma City and Houston tip off at 7 p.m. tonight.
HOU: John Wall (OUT - achilles), David Nwaba (OUT - ankle), Dante Exum (OUT - leg).
OKC: George Hill (OUT - thumb), Trevor Ariza (OUT - personal), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (OUT - knee).
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LAST 5 GAMES
HOU: 5-0 (W5)
OKC: 2-3 (L2)