The Thunder have had a week to recover from their sixth consecutive loss in a row to the Heat and rest up for a trip to Houston. Well, at least the players who were not already participating in the All Star events in that city.
This game could well be a preview of a first round playoff matchup, with the Thunder currently sitting second in the West and the Rockets standing eighth. Oklahoma City will look to sweep the Houston in their third and final meeting after taking the first two games by a combined total of 52 points.
James Harden has had a nice season so far, averaging 26.1 points per game with a field goal percentage of .448 en route to an All Star selection. However, Harden has done nothing of note to keep his current team in the two games against his former team. In fact, Harden’s play in both games against the Thunder was below average to poor as he posted a plus/minus of -17 in the first meeting in Oklahoma City and a -13 in game two in Houston.
Harden’s scoring output dropped to just 17 points in the first game on .188 shooting from the floor. While he did manage to record 25 points in the second game, he still shot well below his season average with a FG percentage of .353. He also has struggled to find teammates against the Thunder, with four total assists in two games, compared to a season average of 5.8 assists per game.
Looking for Some Help
The Thunder dominated the Rockets across the board in pretty much every category except free throw shooting in both games. Houston should not bank on winning that stat again with Oklahoma City coming of a 33-34 effort at the line against the Heat.
It would be ideal if Harden becomes more efficient against his old squad, but even if he does, the Rockets will need some help for him. Perhaps they can get this from the post as Patrick Patterson scored 28 in the first game and Marcus Morris got 24 in the second. It is probably a pipe dream for Houston to count on repeats of either of those performances, but they need to find consistent ways to score to avoid a third blowout.
The Thunder would like to get the stretch run of the season started with a victory. The Rockets could use a big win to jolt their push for the playoffs. Maybe the increased urgency will make this a closer game than the recent track record between these two suggests.