- When: Thursday, 08 November 2018 at 7:00 pm CST
- Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
- TV: TNT
- Radio: WWLS The Sports Animal (98.1 FM, 640 AM, 930 AM (Spanish))
- Line: HOU -4.0 | O/U: 214
- Off Rating: OKC – 106.3 (19th) | HOU – 105.8 (20th)
- Def Rating: OKC – 103.7 (4th) | HOU – 110.1 (22nd)
Winning ugly is the staple of a good team. Especially when the team is missing key contributors due to injury or other reasons. The Oklahoma City Thunder team of last season would’ve likely succumbed to the malaise of not having a Russell Westbrook and would’ve lost an ugly game. But this year’s team seems to be a bit different.
This season’s outfit is filled with grinders and battlers. Players who are not content with just lying down and taking the beating. They may not always come out victorious, but it won’t be for lack of effort. This is most noticeable on the defensive end. Players are flying around, not getting beat to their spots, and hustling whenever they have to. There are nights where it seems like every Thunder player on the floor is an octopus with as many times as they get their hands on passes.
Winning ugly begins with a mindset, usually solidified on the defensive end. And this team has made that their identity. It may not always be pretty, but the results sure are aesthetically pleasing.
The Recent Life of the Opponent
The Rockets come into this game with a 4-5 record. A lot like the Thunder, they’ve been a streaky team when it comes to their record. They lost four in a row, when James Harden was out with a hamstring injury and Chris Paul missed a couple games for his fight with Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram of the Lakers. And since they’ve gotten both players back, they’ve gone on to win their last three. This Rockets team lost two of their glue guys this offseason, and that is showing in their struggles here in the beginning of the season. But, it was always known that Houston would find someway to right the ship, and they seem to be on the path to get that done.
- Russell Westbrook (ankle) – Out
- Andre Roberson (knee) – Out
- Brandon Knight (knee) – Out
- Michael Carter-Williams (illness) – Out
- Nene (calf) – Out
- Eric Gordon (hip) – Questionable
Three Big Things
Surprisingly, the Thunder outpace the Rockets by about five possessions per game. You would think with a Mike D’Antoni coached team, the pace would be pushed to being one of the fastest in the league. But that hasn’t been in the case in his tenure in Houston. And when you add in Carmelo Anthony, the Rockets get even slower. Here’s hoping the Thunder push the tempo and get more scoring opportunities in this game.
2. Defending the 3
Houston loves to let it fly, putting up nearly 42 three-point attempts per game (tops in the league). In addition, they make the second most per game at 14. While the percentage isn’t great, the threat is real. And Houston, like Golden State, is one of those teams that can make threes in bunches if allowed. This is where having a Terrance Ferguson and Jerami Grant out there may help, as their length may help in defending against the three ball.
3. Carmelo Anthony
Hoodie Melo, as he will always be know as here, should receive an ovation tonight. He tried to make it work last season, but for whatever reason (be it fit, age, conditioning, etc.), the OKC experiment did not work. Sometimes, certain combinations of players just don’t work out. But instead of sulking and making a bad situation worse, Anthony, instead, helped the Thunder in formulating his exit out of town. Both parties wanted the divorce to happen, so Melo worked with the Thunder front office to find a solution both parties would like. And so, hello Dennis Schröder!
But Anthony never disparaged the organization or the city. For the man many thought was a “big city guy”, he seemed to enjoy his time in Oklahoma City and embraced his role as the grizzled veteran superstar while he was here. Thunder fans, this isn’t a Kevin Durant situation, so let’s not treat it like one.
Prediction: The Thunder fight hard, but lose this one late, 113-105.