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.

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in game coverage

The Houston Rockets’ first lead was at 9-7 at the 8 minute mark in the first quarter, and ended when Eric Gordon made one of the many layups he got throughout the game on the way to a season-high 35 points.  They would not regain the lead until there was 57 seconds left in the 4th quarter, when James Harden made two free throws to put the Rockets up 100-99.  A New Orleans without Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, and Jrue Holliday led for nearly the entire 48 minutes and by as much as 17 points in the second quarter, the Rockets missed 16 free throws, and Houston’s bench became even more depleted than usual with injuries to Aaron Brooks and Greg Smith (again).  But a general offense in the latter part of the second quarter, Terrence Jones in the third quarter, and James Harden to close out the stretch grasped victory from the jaws of defeat.

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in game coverage

The win against Boston was the first ‘good win’ the Rockets have had in quite a while. They kept the ball moving (most assists the team has registered since Christmas Day against the Spurs) and were able to generate the shots they wanted (Dwight Howard’s shot chart was a thing of beauty). The key now is sustaining that momentum and finishing off the road trip strongly against a depleted but nevertheless dangerous Pelicans team. And if they could somehow manage to do that and rest the starters for their first game back home that would be great, since they are going to be up against the Thunder tomorrow night.

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in game coverage

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