Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder

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The Rockets are enjoying a 27-9 record, after a win over the Washington Wizards, as they get ready to take on the Oklahoma City Thunder for the third time this year. The Rockets are led in scoring, assists and rebounds by James Harden, at 28.4 points, 11.9 assists, and  8.2 rebounds a game. The Rockets are ranked 3rd in offensive rating, 15th in defensive rating, and 4th in net rating.

The Thunder come into Houston, for the first time this season, at 21-15 on the season, losing three of their last four. The Thunder are also led in scoring, assists, and rebounds by one player, Russell Westbrook, at 30.9 points, 10.5 assists and 10.5 rebounds per game. So far this season, the Thunder rank 15th in offensive rating, 9th in defensive rating, and 11th in net rating.

Starting Lineups

With Clint Capela still in a suit with a fractured fibula, and Patrick Beverley likely to play, per D'Antoni, after missing to straight games with a wrist injury, the Rockets starting lineup will likely be: James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and either Nene Hilario or Montrezl Harrell at center, with Eric Gordon getting starter’s minutes and Corey Brewer replacing Beverley if he has to miss another game.

The Thunder are likely to start the game with Russell Westbrook at point guard, Victor Oladipo at shooting guard, Andre Roberson at small forward, Domantas Sabonis at power forward, and Steven Adams at center.

Three Things to Watch

  • MVP Race – As we move closer to the halfway point of the season, the MVP race continues to heat up, with Westbrook and Harden emerging as early front runners for the award. Watch to see if either of these great players manage to have a statement game on national TV.

  • Offensive rebounding  – Thursday's game features two of the deadliest teams on the offensive glass, with the Rockets and Thunder ranking 6th and 5th, respectively. Watch to see which of these two teams are able to limit second chance points, as that will likely be a huge key to the game for both teams.

  • New streak – After having their 10 win streak broken by the San Antonio Spurs, the Rockets have gone 6-1 and currently ride a 5 game win streak. Watch to see if the Rockets are able to ride their momentum once again, stretching the streak to 6 on the way to potentially matching their last streak.

Prediction and Tip-Off

According to coach Mike D'Antoni, Patrick Beverley is set to return on Thursday. Beverley's return is huge for the match-up between these two teams, and if he does play I would expect to see the Rockets' 6th straight win.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in Houston on Thursday, January 5th. The game will be televised on TNT, with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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