The Houston Rockets have been frustrated with their uneven play in the first three weeks of the season. Luckily for them, they've consistently dominated the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets go for their ninth straight win - and 15th in 16 games - against the Thunder franchise as the teams square off in Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Considered one of the top contenders in the Western Conference following the offseason acquisition of Ron Artest, Houston (6-4) appears to be still adjusting to its new look. Though the Rockets opened with three straight wins, they've since dropped four of seven.
They were particularly disappointed with their performance Friday night in a 77-75 loss to San Antonio in which they gave up the game's final 12 points, but they bounced back with a 91-82 victory over New Orleans on Saturday.
"I felt that in the first couple minutes, the guys had a bad taste in their mouths and we needed to come out and get this one," said Tracy McGrady, who had 18 points, nine rebounds and four assists. "This was a great win for us collectively."
McGrady is scoring 16.7 points per game - his lowest average since 1999-2000 - and shooting a career-low 38.7 percent from the field. After a 2-for-12 performance against the Spurs, he was 5-for-12 against the Hornets.
McGrady now looks to help Houston continue its recent dominance of Oklahoma City (1-9). The Rockets have won 14 of 15 in the series against the former Seattle SuperSonics, including all eight meetings since Jan. 3, 2007. They've swept the teams' last two season series, and appear to be in good shape to do it again after an 89-77 home victory over the Thunder on Nov. 1.
Lately, everyone has been dominating the Thunder, who have dropped seven in a row overall. Oklahoma City, which is giving up 104.4 points per game during the skid, suffered its largest margin of defeat of the season in a 110-85 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night.
"There's been too many of those nights this year, about nine of them," said Thunder forward Nick Collison, who was held to two points and missed all seven of his field-goal attempts.
Saturday's loss overshadowed another strong outing from second-year forward Jeff Green, who had 21 points and went 10-for-15 from the field. Often overlooked while playing next to reigning Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant, Green is averaging 15.2 points and 6.3 rebounds this season.
"Shots were just falling for me," Green told the Thunder's official Web site. "I'm taking the shots they give me. I'm working on my jump shot. I'm just knocking them down right now, and I'll continue to work."
The Thunder and Rockets conclude their season series Jan. 9 in Oklahoma City.
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