Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

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Coming off of an encouraging blow-out at the expense of the 76ers, the Rockets head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder. James Harden continues to look fantastic, leading the team in points and assists, at 30.3 and 12.6 a game, respectively, while Clint Capela leads in rebounds at 8.2 a game. After the comfortable win against Philadelphia, the Rockets rank 7th in offensive rating, 22nd in defensive rating, and 11th in net rating.

After a hot start, going 6-1 through their first seven, the Thunder have come back down to earth a bit, dropping four straight, including a back-to-back against the Magic and the Pistons, without Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. Russell Westbrook has gone full-Westbrook this season posting a 41.1% usage rate (2.4% higher than the all time record for a season) and putting up crazy stat lines every night. Westbrook leads the Thunder in points (32 per game), assists (9.9 per game), and rebounds (9.7 per game). Going into Wednesday's game, the Thunder rank 24th in offensive rating, 7th in defensive rating, and 16th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

After starting Corey Brewer for the past three games, the Rockets decided to go back to the starting five they used at the beginning of the year, with Eric Gordon starting next to Harden. The Rockets are likely to put  James Harden at point guard, Eric Gordon at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center on the floor to start the game against the Thunder.

The Thunder took a huge hit to their lineup when Kevin Durant left for greener pastures last off-season, but before he left the Thunder pulled the trigger on a deal that netted them two starters; Oladipo and the draft rights to Domantas Sabonis for Serge Ibaka on draft night. The Thunder will likely start Russell Westbrook at point guard, Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, Andre Roberson at small forward, rookie Domantas Sabonis at power forward, and Steven Adams at center with Enes Kanter playing nearly 20 minutes a game as a sixth man at both big positions.

Three Things to Watch

  • Revenge games, forever –  Since coming to the Houston Rockets via trade from Oklahoma City, James Harden has had monster games almost every time he meets his former team. In 14 career games against the Thunder, James Harden averages 28.9 points, 6.6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game on 61.2 TS% and 43% from three. It will be fun to watch James Harden continue to torch his old team.

  • Rockets' defensive renaissance? - While the Rockets are ranked just 22nd in defensive rating , there have been some very good signs lately. After the first six games of the season the Rockets were dead last in defensive rating, but since then they've ranked 8th (even after two games against the San Antonio Spurs). Watch to see if they are able to keep up their defensive play of late, or if the last 4 games are an aberration.

  • Enjoy the insanity - I am not a fan of Russell Westbrook, but even I can't deny that his out of control, high usage, strong play is entertaining television. Watch to see two superstars who are playing out of their minds (Harden and Westbrook) go toe-to-toe on Wednesday afternoon.

Prediction and Tip-Off

The Rockets should be able to take advantage of a team that's on a skid and head out of Oklahoma City with a win behind a monster game from James Harden.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on Wednesday, November 14th and will be televised on ROOT sports with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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