Tip-Off: 7 PM CST
Location: Toyota Center (Houston, TX)
Television: TNT, FSOK
Radio: The Sports Animal
Twitter: Follow @TheThunderGuys for live-tweets during the game
Player to Watch
G James Harden is the only true threat to Russell Westbrook when it comes to the NBA’s MVP award, and he has been drawing even more attention lately as he continues to put up some terrific numbers in recent games. On New Year’s Eve at home against the New York Knicks, Harden had a career game scoring 53 points while recording a triple-double with 17 assists and 16 rebounds, making him the first player ever to score 50+ points and tally 15+ assists and 15+ rebounds. Harden is averaging 28.4 points (4th in the league), 11.9 assists (1st in the league), and 8.2 rebounds (24th in the league). Andre Roberson has played a huge part in holding Harden to an average of 17 points on 25.5% shooting from the field in the first two meetings between the Rockets and the Thunder. However, Harden has still managed to average 12.5 assists and 8 rebounds in those games. Simply put, if Roberson and the Thunder can keep Harden in check, they give themselves a really good chance to win the game.
Keys to the Game
- Look Down Low: The Thunder big men have been on a tear lately. Steven Adams has been terrific shooting 80.7% on 21/26 from the field over the Thunder’s last three games. While he is not shooting a high volume of shots necessarily, he’s being extremely efficient, and that is something the Thunder is in desperate need of across the board. Enes Kanter is also playing extremely well. He has scored at least 19 points in six of his last seven games while shooting 57.3% from the field. If Adams and Kanter can get something going on the offensive end early, the Oklahoma City backcourt will open up for some good looks.
- Protect the Perimeter: Houston is 1st in the NBA in made three-pointers per game (15) and 5th in the league in three-point percentage (37.8%). Oklahoma City is solid as a team when it comes to defending the arc, holding opponents to 34.8% from three, and the Thunder has been successful at keeping the Rockets from shooting a high percentage in the two previous meetings so far this season. Houston has managed to make only 25 of 82 attempts against Oklahoma City, and tonight the Thunder will need to prevent the Rockets from getting hot from deep.
- Push the Tempo: Oklahoma City likes to get out in transition and run a fast-paced offense. The Thunder ranks 3rd in the NBA with 16.9 fast break points per game. Houston also likes to run the fast break, and they average 4th in the league with 16.5 fast break points per game. The Thunder needs to stay in control of the game and now allow the Rockets to get easy points in transition while also looking to push the ball up and down the court themselves.
Article written by Zack Low. Follow @TheThunderGuys on Twitter and Instagram.