A look back at the first half of Rockets' season
The Thunder have beaten the Rockets by at least 20 points in both games that they've played each other this season.
The Rockets lost on Nov. 20 120-98. Then, on Dec. 29, the Rockets lost at home to the Thunder 124-94.
"We played well both times against them," said Scott Brooks, the head coach of the Thunder. "They've had some unique situations. They had games before. We have a team that can run with them and they have a team that can run with us. It's always going to be a difficult challenge. They've got James (Harden) is an All-Star player. Jeremy (Lin)'s doing a good job. Shooters all over the floor. It's always a good matchup."
Brooks was referring to the fact both previous matchups came on the second game of back-to-backs. Also, on the day of the first matchup between the two clubs, the Rockets flew to Minnesota to attend Sasha McHale's funeral before heading to OKC. It's why Harden describes both losses as being a matter of bad timing and says the Rockets were not at their best for both games.
"They're definitely a much better team (now)," Brooks said. "We got them early. That's one reason why we probably won at our place, but they're playing much better. They kind of went through the growing pains of being together the first time. They've got three new starters together and that's not easy to overcome. They've done a good job of working and building. Coach McHale has done a great job with them to put them in a position to make them a playoff team."
People know the Thunder for having two of the most dynamic players in the world in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but the team's defense hounded the Rockets into 24 turnovers in their December matchup.
"They're an attacking defense," Jeremy Lin said. "They're not as reactionary. We're going to do what we're going to do. So they get out on the pick-and-rolls and show hard and heavy."
"They've got great individual defenders," Harden said. "As a team defense, they do a very good job. A lot of guys who are very long. The rim protection. Guys like Nick Collison take charges. Serge Ibaka blocks shots. Their wings are very long, so we've just got to do a good job of moving them and making them shift."
"We need to move the ball," Lin added. "We need to make sure we don't get sucked into taking too many dribbles on the pick-and-roll. Get it out quick and play four-on-three on the backside."
Unlike the previous two games against OKC, the Rockets had two days of practice before game day. They hope that's enough to hopefully make the third time a charm in their hopes of beating the Thunder.