Monday, October 13, 2008

Pre-Season Preview: Thunder vs Rockets

Preseason Game 4 of 7
Tip Off: Monday, October 13, 2008 @ 7:30 PM CST
Location: Bank of Oklahoma Center, Tulsa, OK

Tonight the Thunder will take on the Houston Rockets as the visitors in a game that will the Thunder's first in the state of Oklahoma. This game marks the mid-point of the preseason for the Thunder and will provide the Thunder with their second biggest test of the preseason (their biggest test will come up against the Los Angeles Lakers in about a week and a half).

This game is one of the more important games of the preseason as the Thunder will play the Rockets twice in the first four weeks of the season including the second game of the season. In addition, seeing how the Thunder respond and bounce back from getting pummeled by the Golden State Warriors Saturday will give a lot of insight into the heart of the team.

I'm going to start to sound like a broken record on this, but the #1 goal for the game for the Thunder has to be better shooting from the field. After the past two games, I'd settle for a 42% field goal percentage which is just about what they shot against Minnesota (41.7%). A good part of this improvement is going to have to come from Kevin Durant. Durant has shot sub 30% in the two games he's played, and there's no way the Thunder can win if that continues. Durant shot 43% last season and needs to get up to those numbers if the Thunder is going to have any chance this year.

The Thunder's #2 goal is to prove that the Warriors game rather than the T-wolves and Kings games was the defensive fluke. If the Thunder can hold the Rockets to sub 40% field goal shooting, it will go a long way towards giving us a chance to win the game. Frankly, I'd be willingly to accept the Thunder holding the Rockets to a field goal percentage lower than what they get in the game, but based on the past two games, that will be a tougher goal than the 40% I've set forth.

The #3 goal for the game will be to outscore the Rockets in the first quarter of the game. The Thunder have been outscored in the first and forth quarters of all three games so far. Digging a hole early every game (the closest the Thunder have been after the first quarter is 8 points behind) puts unnecessary stress on the team. The Thunder somehow have managed to outscore their opponents in the third quarter of each game. One can only guess that P.J.'s been giving them one hell of a half-time speech. Perhaps he should start giving the half-time speech before the game.

A win against the Rockets is probably more than we can hope for, but a strong showing will go a long way towards erasing the doubts that have crept up after the Warriors game. Dropping to 0-4 would be pretty discouraging, but if the Thunder can get the offense turned around, we should see a win before the regular season starts.

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