Oklahoma City Thunder @ Houston Rockets on 1/16/2014

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.

Wait. That paragraph seems very familiar. It’s almost as though this all happened before. Is this just déjà vu, or did I copy my own paragraph for a reason? Fifth game in seven nights? Check. Second night of a back to back? Yup. Houston missing Patrick Beverley and Ömer Aşık? Of course. Thunder without Westbrook? Somehow, yeah. But none of the details are the same, right? It’s not like this game is happening the night after a hard-fought battle with the New Orleans Pelicans, right? Actually, it’s exactly like that. The similarities between this situation and that one are staggering and very troubling, because the outcome was extremely disappointing last time around. The Rockets will have to try to rewrite their past mistakes to get a win.

The Thunder also have very little different in their situation. Westbrook is still sitting with knee problems, Kevin Durant is still trying to shoulder all the load, and the team is treading water. Reggie Jackson may be fitting into the team better, but until the team recovers Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma is simply trying to make it out alive. Both teams retain something of a grudge against one another and both teams will see a playoff rival.

This tine, however, the Rockets will be in Houston, where the crowds won’t be out for Patrick Beverley’s head.Terrence Jones is more skilled, now,racking up monstrous block totals in the intervening month. The Rockets are slowly improving, and may be ready to make this game a real contest. It’s a new day for the Rockets, and each day is a step closer to the conference finals.

Of course, some days are just reruns. We’ll see if Thursday is a repeat or a new day soon enough.

Tip off is at 8:30 pm Central time at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. For more coverage of the Oklahoma City Thunder, swing by Daily Thunder, the TrueHoop Network’s Oklahoma City Thunder blog.

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