Preview: the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Houston Rockets
The Thunder have owned the Rockets in two previous outings this year, winning at home 120-98 on Nov. 28 followed by a 124-94 victory in Houston on Dec. 29.
In both contests one has to wonder if James Harden looked over at his former teammates and wished he didn’t see red on his jersey after looking down. Then again, losses are a lot easier to tolerate when laughing all the way to bank thanks to a big contract extension Oklahoma City didn’t want to give Harden.
The former sixth-man with the Thunder was awful in his first game in Oklahoma City, shooting only 3 for 16 from the floor to finish with 17 points. He rebounded in the second match-up at home, delivering 25 points but has still only managed to outscore the main player he was traded for, Kevin Martin, by a combined six points in both contests.
Meanwhile, the two players that once formed a dynamic trio with Harden have done their best job of reminding the Rocket he made a mistake by choosing the money over team success. Kevin Durant scored 37 points then followed it up with 26 points the second time around, while Russell Westbrook finished with 14 points and nine assists and just nearly missed out on a triple-double in the rematch with 28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
It’s likely Durant and Westbrook will deliver similar performances after coming off back-to-back losses for only the second time this season heading into the All-Star break. Not to mention the duo will be hungry and determined to rebound from the embarrassing loss on home court to the Miami Heat that hung over their heads the entire weekend.
Oklahoma City currently sits second in the Western Conference at 39-14 while the Rockets are eighth with their 29-26 record. Unfortunately, for Harden and the rest of Houston, they won’t be climbing any higher than eighth given the Thunder will be looking to get back on track and remind a friend he’s playing on the wrong team.
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