The Oklahoma City Thunder will get a taste of what it’s like to play against James Harden for the second time this season tonight as they travel to play the Houston Rockets at 8 p.m. EST.
The Thunder already played the Rockets and Harden back on Nov. 28, a game that the Thunder easily won 120-98 while they held Harden to 17 points on 3-for-16 shooting.
The Thunder swarmed Harden that game playing some of the best defense they have all year. They might not be ready to hold Harden to 3-for-16 again but they’ll probably keep him from the 28-5-5 line he’s been averaging in December.
The Rockets have some new pieces this season beyond Harden and at that point earlier in the year, weren’t playing as well as they are right now. Tonight will be a back-to-back for them as they lost on the road to the San Antonio Spurs last night 122-116.
The Thunder got a win in their last game two nights ago at home vs. the Dallas Mavericks after losing the previous two games on the road at Minnesota then at Miami on Christmas Day.
The defense for Oklahoma City has been slipping of late and even in their win against Dallas they were shredded by point guard Darren Collison in the pick-and-roll.
With the Thunder focusing a little more than usual tonight while facing Harden, maybe they can get back on track defensively which really is the key to this team hitting their potential.
The Thunder still have the No. 1 ranked offense in terms of efficiency this season while Houston’s defense is just 19th best. The looks OKC will get against the Rockets will be easier than what they are used to of late against Dallas and especially Miami.
Kevin Durant scored 37 points against the Rockets earlier this year and had 40 points two nights ago vs. Dallas. Chandler Parsons didn’t play in the first meeting and he will be a big upgrade defensively tonight for Houston.
Russell Westbrook only scored 14 points against the Rockets in the first meeting and he has been struggling lately. His matchup vs. Jeremy Lin is one he can easily go off on so tonight could be a time for Westbrook to get back into a groove.
Serge Ibaka had one of his best games of the year vs. Houston scoring 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting to go with nine boards and six blocks. Ibaka is coming off a 19-point, 17-rebound, 5-block effort vs. Dallas two nights ago.
The Thunder clearly have more talent than Houston but if Harden had something to prove in late November against the Thunder and didn’t get a chance to, imagine how he feels coming into this game in front of his new home crowd.
It will be another good one with all eyes on the Beard and his new garment. Knocking off the Thunder while playing the second game of a back-to-back is never a convenient situation.