Rockets-Thunder Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 05, 2012
The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten a couple of much-needed days off following one of the most hectic opening schedules in the league. They won't get any more rest this weekend. They'll play three games in three days beginning with a home-and-home series against the Houston Rockets that starts Friday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Oklahoma City was one of two teams along with the Los Angeles Lakers to play seven games in the first 10 days of the season, and the Thunder (5-2) appeared to show signs of fatigue toward the end of that stretch. They dropped back-to-back games following their first 5-0 start since winning six in a row to open the 1998-99 season when they were the Seattle SuperSonics. Oklahoma City averaged 90.0 points and shot 41.9 percent over its two defeats after averaging 102.0 points on 48.0 percent shooting during the unbeaten start. The Thunder are 10 for 39 (25.6 percent) from 3-point range in two games this month after leading the Western Conference in December at 41.7 percent. They haven't played since Tuesday, when Kevin Durant was 1 of 7 on 3-point tries and missed 18 of 26 shots overall in a 103-93 loss to Portland. While Durant had 19 points for his second-lowest total of the season, James Harden scored a team-best 23 starting for an ill Thabo Sefolosha. "We definitely miss (Sefolosha), but there are no excuses," coach Scott Brooks said. "We have enough in our locker room to get the job done. ... We just have to play better. We understand that sometimes it takes a tough loss." The two-day break could lead to an improved performance Friday, as could a matchup with a Rockets team which is winless in four road games. Oklahoma City has won four of five over Houston (2-4), including three straight at home by double digits. The teams meet again Saturday night at the Toyota Center before the Thunder host San Antonio on Sunday. "Three in a row is going to be tough, but it's something we've got to fight through," Durant said. "The two days off before is going to help." Durant reached 30 points in each of the first four games but hasn't done so in the last three, averaging 19.3. He's scored at least 30 in the last two matchups with the Rockets. "I'm a scorer, so I can't get down on one game," the two-time scoring champion said. "I can't let it snowball to the next." Houston, meanwhile, is trying to salvage the end of a three-game trip that included its most lopsided defeat of the season, 117-89 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. The Rockets gave up 41 points in the first quarter - the most allowed by any team in one period this season - and scored 14 in the fourth, their fewest in one period. "We made mistakes offensively and defensively," said guard Kyle Lowry, who scored a team-high 17 points. "It's just something we've got to figure out. We can't have nights like this. It was a terrible day for us." Lowry was one of six players in double figures during Houston's lone win over Oklahoma City last season, 99-98 on Nov. 28, 2010. Kevin Martin had a team-best 23 points and has averaged 23.3 over his last 15 matchups with the Thunder. Martin has averaged 12.8 points in Houston's four road losses, compared to 26.0 in its two home wins.
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