- When: Monday, 02 November 2015 at 8:00 PM EST
- Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
The Oklahoma City Thunder showed in their last two games why they can both incredibly frustrating and incredibly scary to opponents at the same time. After sleepwalking for the first 3 quarters of the game on Friday against the Orlando Magic, the Thunder turned up the pressure defensively and got dialed in offensively to overcome an 18 point fourth quarter deficit. They forced overtime (twice) and overpowered the young Magic by virtue of having 2 of the top 5 players in the league. On Sunday night, their depth was put on full display as seven players scored in double figures, completely overwhelming the Denver Nuggets on their way to a 117-93 victory.
The Houston Rockets swept the season series last year 3-0. The Rockets basically played three different Thunder teams in this three games. The first game featured Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka as the focal points for the Thunder. The second game featured the superstar duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And the third meeting featured Westbrook, Enes Kanter, and Dion Waiters as the focal points for the Thunder. Surprisingly, the biggest loss in the season series came when Durant and Westbrook were both healthy.
The Houston Rockets come into this game with a lot of questions hanging over their heads. The Western Conference runners-up from last year came into this season with championship aspirations. But so far, after three tries, the Rockets are still looking for their first win of the season. They lost on opening night at home by 20 to the Denver Nuggets. Two nights later they lost to the defending champion Golden State Warriors at home. And last night, they held a 21 point lead a minute into the third quarter in Miami. Twenty-three minutes later, they left Miami on the wrong side of a 20 point loss. One of the top offenses in the league last season, the Rockets are now averaging only 88.7 points per game, good for 28th in league. On the other end of the floor, they are allowing 108.7 points per game, which is 25th worst in the league. The Ty Lawson/James Harden backcourt seems to be getting off to a bumpy start, as Harden has struggled with his shot to begin the season and Lawson has struggled with finding a balance as a playmaker and scorer. On the other wing, Trevor Ariza has also struggled with his shot, shooting 25% from the field in the first three games. Up front, Dwight Howard has only played in 1 game this season and the Rockets are already instituting a rest regiment on him for back to back games. Off the bench, Patrick Beverly, Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer, and Clint Capela are a good combination of scoring and defense.
Probable Starting Line-ups
- PG - Ty Lawson
- SG - James Harden
- SF - Trevor Ariza
- PF - Terrance Jones
- C - Dwight Howard
Oklahoma City Thunder
- PG - Russell Westbrook
- SG - Andre Roberson
- SF - Kevin Durant
- PF - Serge Ibaka
- C - Steven Adams
3 Things to Watch For
- Fast Start/Desperate Team - The Rockets will likely start this game out like their lives depend on it. This team has aspirations to be a championship contender and Harden has aspirations of being an MVP this season. Three games out of 82 does not a season make, but a team always wants to secure that first victory. The Thunder will likely have to weather a run to begin the game. Unfortunately, strong starts have not been associated with the Thunder in their first three games.
- Perimeter Defense - The one thing that will get the Rockets going will be to see the ball go into the basket from deep. They are currently shooting 24.5% from deep for the season, which ranks 28th in the league. The problems with the Rockets this season has been their spacing. While Harden and Lawson are great at breaking down a defense and getting into the lane, the shooters on the perimeter (Ariza, Jones, Thornton, Brewer) haven't been making their shots. If the Rockets start making a few of those shots, then the floor opens up even more for Harden and Lawson.
- Enes Kanter - Clint Capela is a good, young prospect at center for the Rockets. He's long and athletic, averaging nearly 7 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in 19 minutes. But Kanter is a surgeon on the inside with his footwork. Kanter will take advantage of the inexperience of Capela and will be the difference-maker in this game.
Weird Stat of the Night: Harden is shooting 9.4% from 3-point territory this season. Andre Roberson is shooting 25% from 3-point territory. Let that sink in for a little bit.