(SportsNetwork.com) - The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets appear
headed toward the postseason and it's not even January.
The two powers collide for the first time this season on Sunday in what could
possibly be a playoff preview.
Oklahoma City has the best record in the West at 24-5 and the Rockets aren't
too far off with a 21-11 mark. The Thunder will play their next three games at
Chesapeake Energy Arena, where they own a 13-1 record and suffered a 104-98
loss to Toronto last Sunday.
The Thunder have won two in a row on the road since then and posted an 89-85
victory at Charlotte Friday behind 34 points and 12 rebounds from NBA leading
scorer Kevin Durant (28.3 ppg). It was Durant's sixth 30-point and 10-rebound
effort of the season.
Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha scored 12 points apiece for OKC, which is 19-2
in its last 21 games.
"We did a good job, sticking to what we do, playing defense, getting stops,
keeping our composure," said Sefolosha.
It wasn't all good news for the Thunder, however, as the team announced star
guard Russell Westbrook will be out until after the All-Star break due to an
arthroscopic procedure performed on his surgically repaired right knee. He is
averaging 21.3 points, 7.0 assists and 6.0 rebounds per game.
The Thunder will also entertain Portland and Brooklyn on the stay.
Houston enters this matchup with Oklahoma City riding a three-game winning
streak and just handed the New Orleans Pelicans a 107-98 setback on Saturday.
The Rockets needed to outscore the Pelicans in the fourth quarter and did so
with a 33-25 advantage. Dwight Howard showed no signs of a stiff back and came
down with 24 points and 18 rebounds. James Harden scored 21 points, while
Chandler Parsons and Terrence Jones posted 19 and 17 points, respectively.
Harden and Jeremy Lin (10 points) each buried big 3-pointers toward the end
for a Rockets team that made just 6-of-26 from beyond the arc. Houston,
though, made 49.4 percent of its shot overall.
Houston is 8-7 away from home and will return to Space City for three games
versus Sacramento, New York and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Rockets and Thunder are two of the high-scoring teams in the league.
Houston is averaging 106.3 ppg and the Thunder are moving along at a 105.7
clip. The Rockets have held their last three opponents under 100 points and
are posting an average of 31.7 ppg in the fourth quarter over that time.
Oklahoma City took two of three matchups with Houston a season ago and has won
six of the past nine encounters between the teams. The Rockets are losers in
five of six trips to OKC.
The Sports Network