Thunderous Intentions will begin to preview the 2012-13 NBA season by going through every team in the league and breaking down how they match up with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Be sure to check out the previous matchups we have previewed: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors.
Houston Rockets Team Overview
The Rockets went “all-in” to try and acquire Dwight Howard this summer. GM Daryl Morey stockpiled draft picks and did everything possible to try and come up with a package that would satisfy the Orlando Magic.
This didn’t happen and instead the Rockets were left with a consolation prize of restricted free agents Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Houston had three first round draft picks in which they took Jeremy Lamb, Royce White and Terrence Jones.
The Rockets also added via free agency and trades Carlos Delfino, Shaun Livingston, Jon Brockman, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twuan Moore and Sean Williams. The most exciting new comer in Houston will be 2011 lottery pick Donatas Montiejunas.
Montiejunas did not come over right away after being drafted by the Rockets in 2011 but will be with the team next season. He was said to have been the No. 2 overall pick behind only Anthony Davis had he been a part of the 2012 NBA Draft class. Montiejunas was also seen playing limited time in the Olympics this summer for Lithuania. Montiejunas is a very active and athletic big who is still very raw, but paired with a solid point guard should be able to produce soon in the NBA.
With all of the additions for the Rockets, there were just as many subtractions. Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, Chase Budinger and Samuel Dalembert will all no longer be with the team next season.
The Rockets are starting over with Morey trying to get the team in position to land a superstar in the upcoming summer. Morey has done a brilliant job constructing winning teams by finding those diamonds in the rough but it seems even he realizes you can’t win a championship without a serious superstar like Howard.
The Oklahoma City Thunder played the Rockets four times last season with the teams splitting the season series.
The Thunder won the first two games on back-to-back nights in early January. OKC won 109-94 at home first with Kevin Durant leading the way with 26 points while James Harden poured in 23 off the bench.
The Thunder won again the next night 98-95 as Durant was very clutch in the final moments. He scored 27 points while Russell Westbrook had 25, Harden had 16 and Nazr Mohammed had a season-high 17.
The Rockets got the better of the Thunder in their third meeting in Houston 96-95. Kevin Martin had 32 to lead Houston while Durant had 33, Westbrook 26 and Harden 17.
The Rockets won by one point again in the final meeting of the season in OKC 104-103 on March 13. The Rockets went on a 13-1 run to end the game and stun the home crowd with the win. Chandler Parsons and Courtney Lee each scored 21 to lead the Rockets.
Durant had 28, Westbrook 19 and Harden 16. Mohammed was actually big again scoring 10 points.
Durant averaged 28.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game vs. Houston in four games. He shot .471 percent from the floor, .333 from three and .867 from the line.
Westbrook averaged 21.3 points, 4.8 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game vs. Houston. He shot .453 percent from the field, .182 percent from three and .833 from the line.
Harden averaged 18.0 points and 4.3 assists per game. He shot .479 percent from the field, .435 percent from three and .889 percent from the line.
The Rockets were a pretty efficient offense last season, ninth in the league overall in points per possession. They were ranked 12th on spot-up shooting plays, 11th on isolation plays, 8th on transition plays and 12th in the pick-and-roll.
The Thunder were very good defensively last year but this kind of balance from the Rockets made them a tough team to beat and that’s why they were able to steal two games from the Thunder.
The Rockets weren’t great on defense though ranking just 21st overall in points per possession allowed. They were very good defending isolation plays, ranked sixth in the league which is another way they match up pretty well with the Thunder.
The Rockets were just 23rd best vs. the pick-and-roll though which is going to make it very tough to beat the Thunder, who rely on the pick-and-roll more than anything else in their offense.
Houston more than any other team next year will look the most different. It will result in some time to get to know each other and not many people think the Rockets have a very good chance to make the playoffs.
They will play the Thunder three times next season first on Nov. 28 in OKC, then Dec. 29 in Houston and finally in Houston again on Feb. 20.
Even though Houston may not be as good next year, they did play very well vs. the Thunder in their meetings last season. They will carry over some confidence into next season because of this.
Parsons matched up pretty well vs. Durant and Westbrook struggled overall in the matchup. But without some Linsanity, the Thunder should win this season series.