Thunder (2-game winning streak)
105.9 Offensive Efficiency (2nd)
99.3 Defensive Efficiency (14th)
95.9 Pace (5th)
Rockets (2-game losing streak)
101.9 Offensive Efficiency (9th)
99.9 Defensive Efficiency (16th)
95.0 Pace (11th)
The Thunder have won their last two games, both against Utah, and now sit atop the NBA with the best record at 22-6. Tonight they will play the Houston Rockets who are a similar opponent to the Jazz. The Thunder beat the Rockets twice already this year on back-to-back games played in the first week of January. Kevin Durant had big games in each of those as well as James Harden. The Rockets have a similar issue when it comes to guarding Durant that Utah had in that they will be putting young players on him with Chandler Parsons and Chase Budinger. The Rockets were without Kyle Lowry in both of those games however and he will be suiting up tonight.
Thunder keys to the game
1. Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin has been in one of the biggest slumps of his career the past few games and the Thunder need to keep it that way. He did not score a single point for the first time in six years last night and is only averaging 7.3 points per game over his last six games. Martin can get hot easily and can beat opponents from the outside, an area of weakness for the Thunder defense. Thabo Sefolosha is still day-to-day and unlikely to play so the defensive assignment will go to Daequan Cook whose forte isn’t on the defensive end.
2. The Thunder bigs
Oklahoma City’s big men have been great lately. Serge Ibaka has been a monster blocking shots and now leads the league in that department. Ibaka didn’t do much the first two times Houston played and has been much better lately. Luis Scola had a 28-point game when Houston played at home against Oklahoma City but Ibaka should be able to slow him down tonight. Scola is similar to Paul Millsap in his craftiness on offense so the Thunder bigs should be used to his style tonight. Kendrick Perkins has been productive of late too including a career-high six assists last night. His screen-setting to free Durant and get him going early will be crucial. Nazr Mohammed had a season-high 17 points the last time the Thunder played the Rockets. Oklahoma City wouldn’t say no to a repeat of that tonight.
The Thunder are on a back-to-back tonight and the Rockets are one of the better rebounding teams in the NBA. Houston is third in the NBA in total rebound rate and fifth in offensive rebound rate. Oklahoma City will need to be focused tonight to make sure they don’t get killed on the glass. Durant is the leading rebounder for the Thunder but will have to respect Parsons and Budinger on the perimeter tonight so won’t be able to hang around the paint to get defensive boards. Perkins and Ibaka need to be focused on boxing out every possession and especially so since Houston shoots a lot of threes. A good rebounding night will lead to fast breaking for one of the best teams in the NBA in transition and an easy win for the Thunder.
Prediction: Oklahoma City wins 109-106.