Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder Preview
This matchup will be more competitive than most would think. The trio of Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder have been elite of late. The Thunder matchup extremely well against the Rockets. Both teams have stellar guard play. Both teams have guys who can get to the rack and get to the line. Both teams feature similar-style bigs who can protect the rim. The obvious edge for the Rockets is that they have James Harden. Yet and still, if the Thunder are able to neutralize Harden’s ability to take good shots and get to the line, they will have a shot.
Given they are at home, they will rally behind the home crowd to keep this game close. They have the closers in Paul and Schroder to make things interesting. With six home losses on the year, the majority of those came against elite teams in close games (Bucks, Lakers, Pacers). In the last matchup between these two teams, the Rockets won 116-112 in their home arena. While the Thunder have the guard play to match up, they do not have the perimeter shooting that the Rockets possess. This can be the difference-maker in what will likely be an up and down game.
Time: 9:30 PM ET
Arena: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Thunder: Danilo Gallinari, Andre Roberson (O)
Rockets: Gerald Green (O)
Oklahoma City Thunder Starting Lineup
The Thunder have been rolling of late. Winning 10 of their last 12, they currently sit at 7th in a competitive Western Conference. Game in and game out, at least one of their guards has been able to takeover a game in the second half. Whether it is attacking the rim or off the dribble jump shots, they have shown just how capable they are as isolation scorers. Five out of these out of the twelve games, Shai was the leading scorer. Three of those go to Paul and three for Schroder as well. There lone game remaining was Steven Adams leading with 24 points against Joel Embid and the Sixers. Given their play style and obvious confidence regardless of the opponent, they will be a dangerous team come postseason.
The Thunder’s downfall centers mainly around defense at the wing position and perimeter shooting. They lack a decent amount of spot up shooters, along with few defenders to guard top wing scorers given that Roberson is out. Although they do not have an All-Star level player this year, their unpredictability on the offensive end makes them that much more lethal.
Houston Rockets Starting Lineup
It is no secret who controls the fate of this Rockets team. James Harden is the do-it-all type of guy, with Westbrook following behind. With 7 of their losses on the year on the road, they sometimes tend to let games slip when they are not at their home stadium. James Harden has proven to take games over when they are on the road. He statistically performs slightly better and more efficient. The key this game will be whether Clint Capela can protect the rim against the constant attack of the Thunder guards. With guys like Tucker, House, and McLemore having open looks, Houston’s offense is hard to stop. If they are able to defend on the perimeter and at the rim, their chances of taking this game on the road are much more likely.
Key Player Matchups
Westbrook/Harden vs. Paul/Schroder
Both Westbrook and Paul are as competitive as it gets and also have a history with one another. The key for Westbrook will be to not let Paul or Schroder get in his head. If he is able to remain efficient, he should win this matchup. This is his first time returning to OKC, so this will be an emotional game for him. The veteran savvy Paul knows what it takes to win the battle against opposing point guards.
In regards to Harden, the same things apply. Paul and Schroder are not necessarily defensive studs but have what it takes to be disruptive over the course of a game. If Harden moves the ball when doubled and lets the game come to him, his opportunities will open up. Given the hostile crowd of OKC, Harden may start off slow before finally picking things up in the second half.
Clint Capela vs. Steven Adams
Both players are huge for both teams in the pick-n-roll. While Capela is a better rim protector, Adams may win this battle on the boards. The key for both players will be pick-n-roll defense, as both teams have some of the quickest, crafty guards in the game. Both players will look to eliminate offensive rebounds for the other, while also providing some scoring punch. Adams will look to get physical, and Capela will rely more so on his length and athleticism. This will be an interesting matchup that may decide the game.
Harden will certainly have 30+ with a solid number of assists. Russel Westbrook will look to have a statement game in his return to OKC. Both will have the ball in their hands the majority of the game. Clint Capela may ride his hot streak, going for 22 and 22 last game against the Atlanta Hawks.
For the Thunder, Chris Paul, Schroder, and Shai could all have great games fantasy-wise. The Thunder like to ride the hot hand in the second half and when the game is on the line. There is not anyone else on the roster who could explode offensively for them. Steven Adams should provide consistent numbers around his average.
Bet on Matchup
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