Two teams that are recovering from slow starts square off Thursday when the Oklahoma City Thunder host the Houston Rockets. The Thunder have won six straight after an 0-4 start while Houston has rolled off three straight road victories after opening 1-5.
Oklahoma City will likely be without point guard Russell Westbrook (ankle) for the second straight game but prevailed without him Wednesday with a 95-86 road win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Thunder will get their first look at Carmelo Anthony in a Rockets' uniform and the player who proclaimed he wouldn't be a backup for Oklahoma City this season is averaging 14.7 points as a reserve for Houston. The Rockets are 3-0 on a five-game road trip and uncharacteristically scored fewer than 100 points in consecutive wins over Chicago (96-88) and Indiana (98-94). "We're doing a really good job of getting stops and making it hard for teams to score," point guard James Harden told reporters. "I'm not worried about our offense. We're a really good offensive team. We're going to make shots. We need a pretty good defensive effort (each night)."
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (4-5): Houston wasn't in sync earlier in the campaign as point guard Chris Paul missed two games because of a suspension and Harden sat out three because of a hamstring injury. Harden is averaging 26.5 points in two games since his return and scored 28 against the Pacers on Monday. Center Clint Capela is developing into a force and had 18 points (on 8-of-10 shooting) and 10 rebounds against Indiana for his sixth straight double-double and he has season averages of 15.6 points and 11.3 rebounds.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (6-4): Offseason acquisition Dennis Schroder matched his season high of 34 minutes with Westbrook sidelined Wednesday and scored a season-best 28 points for his third 20-point outing of the season. Schroder has accepted a bench role after being a starter for the Atlanta Hawks the past two seasons and is proving to be a good fit for a team that is meshing after the slow start. "Everybody is on the same page," forward Paul George told reporters after the win over the Cavaliers. "We come out there and we have an expectation of the level we want to play at. Regardless of how the game goes, we find a way to take it to the next level and we're getting the job done."
1. Westbrook averaged 29 points and 9.3 assists as the Thunder went 2-1 against the Rockets last season.
2. Oklahoma C Steven Adams collected 13 rebounds against Cleveland for his sixth double-digit effort of the season.
3. Paul is averaging eight points on 7-of-23 shooting over the past two games.
PREDICTION: Rockets 117, Thunder 112 Bet Now
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|James Ennis III||Position: Forward (F) |
|PJ Tucker||Position: Forward (F) |
|Clint Capela||Position: Center (C) |
|Chris Paul||Position: Guard (G) |
|James Harden||Position: Guard (G) |
|Jerami Grant||Position: Forward (F) |
|Paul George||Position: Forward (F) |
|Steven Adams||Position: Center (C) |
|Dennis Schroder||Position: Guard (G) |
|Terrance Ferguson||Position: Guard (G) |