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Preview: Thunder at Rockets - 11/29

The Thunder hits the road to take on the Houston Rockets for the second time in a matter of 12 days and the third time this season. OKC enjoyed a two-day break between games following its most recent matchup where it took the Washington Wizards down to the final seconds on Friday before falling by just two points.

What to Watch

Disciplined OKC Defense The last time OKC went up against Houston, the Thunder’s defense held the Rockets to just 89 points on 35-percent shooting from the field. That marks the fewest points for any Thunder opponent this season. The performance stood in stark contrast to the first meeting against Houston back in October where the Rockets scored 124 points.

As the season has progressed, OKC’s defense has grown more and more efficient. Through the month of November, the Thunder ranks seventh in the league in defensive rating and points allowed per game.

Shai in the Fray The Thunder’s tilt against Washington marked the first game back for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander after missing a pair of contests with a sprained right ankle. Against the Wizards, Gilgeous-Alexander posted 15 points, eight rebounds and a season-high-tying nine assists.

“He's having a great season. We’re happy to have him back,” said Thunder second year forward Aleksej Pokuševski. “He's bringing a lot on offense for our team.”

The Lane and the Line Houston will look to generate much of its offense from inside the paint and at the free throw line. So far this season, the Rockets rank third in percentage of their total points from the lane (46%) and the charity stripe (16%).

When it comes to scoring at the rim, OKC will work to limit Rockets’ center Christian Wood who ranks 14th in the league in second chance points per night and leads the Rockets in scoring with 16 points per game. In OKC’s last meeting with Houston, Wood was limited to just 10 points on 4-of-16 shooting from the field.

Stepping up in the Second Unit OKC wing Kenrich Williams left the game against Washington on Friday with a right ankle sprain and did not return. Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault anticipates Williams to miss some time which means OKC’s second unit will have a different look to it until Williams returns. Over the last four games, Williams averaged 8.5 points while shooting 71 percent from the field off the bench.

As always, the Thunder and its coaching staff will use the vacancy in the rotation as an opportunity to test out different lineups and combinations and a chance for players throughout the roster to step up when needed.

“That's something we definitely have to compensate for. We'll probably look at some different things depending on how long he's out,” said Daigneault. “But we're going to use it as an opportunity like we always do with the injuries.”

Notable

With his 21 points against Washington on Friday, Thunder guard Lu Dort has now logged seven games this season scoring 20 or more points after only recording nine of such games through all of last season. Dort continues to demonstrate his shooting consistency as he has tallied 10 consecutive games with two or more made 3-pointers—the third-longest active streak in the league.

Quotable

Aleksej Pokuševski on the two days off between games… “It’s good to take care of our bodies. We had live practice, got to clean up some things in offense, but it’s a great feeling to have some time off.”

Scouting Report

After defeating Charlotte in overtime on Saturday, Houston has now won back-to-back games for the first time this season. Over the span of those two contests, the Rockets have averaged 132 points while shooting 52 percent from the 3-point line. Rockets forward Christian Wood led the way with a career-high 33 points to go alongside 16 rebounds to mark his third consecutive double-double. Three other Rockets scored 20 or more points in the contest: Kevin Porter Jr, 23, Eric Gordon, 22, and sharp-shooter Garrison Matthews, 20. As advertised, Houston did most of its collective scoring damage in the paint with 54 points and from behind the arc where they cashed in 23 3-pointers at a 47-percent clip.