Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder on 12/29/2103

Oklahoma City doesn’t like Patrick Beverley. The players of the Thunder don’t have any say in this grudge, and it’s only going to be reignited when the Rockets visit Oklahoma to take on the Thunder for the first time this season. The knee injury that Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook suffered in the playoffs last season has attacked once again, removing him from active duty until further notice. With the specter of that fateful collision between two point guards looming large, Houston has to come into one of the loudest home courts in the league and try to steal one in the Chesapeake Energy Arena

Westbrook is unquestionably the second best player on the Thunder, a team tied for first place in the brutal Western Conference. His absence a huge factor in the Rockets’ resistance to a clearly superior Thunder team during the playoffs, and the same will be true in this meeting. This time, however, Houston is missing their own starting point guard in Patrick Beverley, who’s out with a broken hand. That grudge will have to wait, but the larger grudge will take center stage. The Thunder will come at a  battered, weary Rockets team, and there will be no mercy. If Houston wants a win, they’ll need to summon every bit of resolve they have left.

The bad news is that Kevin Durant is the second best player in the league and he’s on a tear right now. The Thunder are lining up opponents and Durant is knocking them down, even without Westbrook as the backup star. Reggie Jackson has come up huge as the backup point guard, and is in the sixth man of the year conversation. The Thunder’s defense has climbed up to second best in the league,their offense is clicking, and behind all the hubbub over the Portland Trail Blazers, the Thunder have calmly matched their conference-best record. This is a team on the warpath, and one that needs to make it back to the finals.

The Rockets, on the other hand, are a new contender in the making, have been struggling to stay healthy at al, and are on the tail end of a brutal ten day schedule. The Thunder game marks the seventh game in ten days for Houston, and the fourth in five nights. The Rockets will be on the second night of a back to back, in a bad three point shooting slump and on the road against an elite, rested team that has it out for them specifically. All together, that’s not a recipe for success.

The Rockets grabbed a tough win over the New Orleans Pelicans, and somehow that’s a more important win due to tiebreaker implications. However, taking out the team with the target on their backs would be a huge outing for Houston, and it’s likely the Rockets will leave it all on the court to finish off a truly brutal couple weeks. The problem is that after so many games, there may be little to put on the court. Nobody can seem to hit three pointers, the bench is coming up short after losing players to injury, and the offense tends to get flustered against elite defenses.

In other news, Dwight Howard is an amazing basketball player, the best center in the league once again, and may be enough by himself to win the game if he goes off. Predicting this level of prowess, professionalism and dedication would have seemed delusional a mere few months ago, but Howard has seemingly recovered from his injury and his distaste with his tenure with the Los Angeles Lakers. Look for the Rockets to punish the Thunder early and often inside, as Dwight is bigger and stronger than any player on their roster. Kendrick Perkins may have had a reputation as a Dwight stopper during his Boston Celtics years, but he’s unlikely to be able to match up with Dwight now, if he was ever able to.

The three point line will be swarmed, and the Rockets can’t seem to hit them even when they’re open. Serge Ibaka lurks inside, waiting to swat any offending layups into the stratosphere. The Thunder’s capable bench is just sharpening their knives, ready to tear into Houston’s depleted reserves. This is as challenging as the regular season gets. A win here would be a major feather in a young, growing team’s cap. The Rockets seem to lose to trap games all the time. This time, the tables are turned. Today, the Rockets have to spring the trap.

View this discussion from the forum.

This entry was posted in essays and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.
Login to leave a comment.
Total comments: 10
  • Dayak says 8 months ago Tired legs. 3-1 on 4 games in 5 nights, i'll take it all days.
    "Once the playoffs come
    around, rest isn't an issue any more, right?" absolutely agree with it.
  • miketheodio says 8 months ago

    the kings game is big. i hope they set out to completely dominate. blowout or bust. let's see the response.

  • SadLakerFan says 8 months ago

    You don't get to 25-5 in the NBA by good fortune or scheduling. The Thunder are a superior team. I think that Houston has the personnel to compete, but they aren't there yet.

  • BenQueens says 8 months ago

    Gah, the teams might be worse, but that mid-January schedule is going to be brutal for fatigue, too. It would be nice to get OKC after a little rest, instead of as the last game of your second back-to-back in 5 games over a week.

  • 2016Champions says 8 months ago

    SCHEDULE_VS_OKC.jpg

    :(

  • SadLakerFan says 8 months ago The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Rockets made another appearance tonight. Oh well, still more interesting than the Lakers.
  • rm90025 says 8 months ago

    The schedule made this result predictable.4th game in 5 nights for the Rockets. OKC was relatively well-rested. Wouldn't draw too many conclusions from this one. Coaches may complain but fatigue is a factor in a long NBA season and fresher teams usually have an advantage over tired teams. Even when the better, but more tired team wins, that team often doesn't cover the spread.

  • Red94 says 8 months ago New post: Oklahoma City Thunder 117, Houston Rockets 86 - There's always tomorrow
    By: Forrest Walker

    Before we go any further, there's something great to take away from this game. Tomorrow is another day, and new, amazing things can happen tomorrow. James Harden might work on his defense. Dwight Howard might take some instruction on his post moves from Houston Rockets head coach and post play superhero Kevin McHale. Chandler Parsons might engage in some unexpected show of support and solidarity with another terminally ill child. The future is still bright and sunny for this Houston Rockets team, and the future starts with tomorrow.

    It's important to remember all that, because today is a thunderstorm on an iceberg with a whirlpool under it. The Rockets were obliterated, crushed, atomized, decimated, slaughtered and nearly kicked down to the D-League by the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team that's been to the finals and is still mad about everything that happened since game two of that series in 2012. Would the Thunder currently be better if they had held onto James Harden? That quest is still going unanswered, because it's impossible to think with Kevin Durant dunking on everyone as soon as they try to have a conversation. The Thunder are still the team to beat in this conference, and the Rockets probably didn't even need to catch a plane back to Houston given how hard they got kicked in the rear.

    Of course, there are reasons the Rockets lost. The biggest reason is that they had 31 fewer points, and when it comes down to it, points are an important stat in this league. The Rockets initially tried a strategy of avoiding points, but eventually went away from that gambit after 6:30 of scorelessness. It turned out to be less than a revolution, as they got behind by 11-0 before their first field goal, and the lead gradually grew from there. So that's the main reason they failed. They didn't get enough points.

    Normally, points are achieved by shooting the basketball into the hoop, but that wasn't a good option for the Rockets, who can't shoot their way out of a paper bag with a water gun right now. Playing four games in five days, and eight games in twelve days makes for a grueling stretch. They shot 25% from three point range, 35% overall and 55% from the stripe. It was ugly. It's been ugly for a week, and this was the ugliest yet. The Rockets may be in a brutal game-heavy period right now, but that's temporary. Once the playoffs come around, rest isn't an issue any more, right?

    Unfortunately, Kevin Durant will still be Kevin Durant in May. His good boy image seems to be melting off his spidery frame lately. His "KD is not nice" ad campaign seems accurate , given how often he obliterated James Harden with vicious dunks. Durant took delight in slicing apart a team crippled by injuries and totally out of gas. All of this was obvious going into the game, but it didn't make it any easier to watch. The Thunder are a high-power juggernaut that will go back to the finals if health allows. The Rockets, tonight, were the opposite of that.

    Many players on both teams played basketball. The Thunder can look proudly on their box scores and feel a certain vindication. The Rockets' box scores should not be looked at. No, don't do that. Especially don't look at James Harden's line. The Rockets eventually gave up the ghost and just waited for the ride to end, and occasionally that's the only thing that makes sense to do. Some games are a statement win or a wake-up call loss. Other games, however, are just a bad day to be forgotten quickly. This was one of those, and the faster the Rockets can forget with a big win, the better.

  • Steven says 8 months ago

    I thought the game was tonight? Might want to check the date :P.

    Good thing I missed it.
  • Sir Thursday says 8 months ago

    I thought the game was tonight? Might want to check the date :P.