Thunder-Rockets Preview

Winning on the road typically takes toughness and perseverance.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been excelling in both areas

lately.

The Thunder look to win six consecutive road games for the first

time in nearly six years when they visit the struggling Houston

Rockets on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City (11-5) seemed to be headed to a second straight

defeat Friday in Indiana, trailing by 14 points early in the third

quarter and by five with 2:02 remaining in regulation, but it

rallied to send the game to overtime and went on to win 110-106.

Russell Westbrook finished with a career-high 43 points, while

Kevin Durant scored 11 of his 25 in the final two minutes and

overtime to send the Thunder to their sixth win in seven games.

“We were rewarded for our hard work and perseverance,” said

Durant, whose three-point play tied it at 96 with 45 seconds to

play in regulation. “It was a good win for us. (It) was one of

those games where we had to grind it out.”

Oklahoma City has had several games like that during its

five-game road winning streak. Two games have gone to overtime,

while the other three have all been one possession games in the

final 12 seconds.

“You like to hear words like tough and scrappy,” Thunder coach

Scott Brooks said. “Our team is improving in those daily.”

Oklahoma City is trying to win six consecutive road games for

the first time since Dec. 8-Jan. 3, 2005, when the franchise was

based in Seattle. It has been about the same amount of time since

the franchise’s last win in Houston, an 87-85 victory Feb. 22,

2005. The Thunder have lost 10 straight there, their longest active

road losing streak against any opponent.

Oklahoma City appears to have a good chance of snapping that

streak, however, as the banged-up Rockets (4-11) are off to their

worst start since opening 4-12 in 2005-06.

The Thunder also defeated the Rockets 116-99 on Nov. 17, as

Durant had 24 points, while Westbrook added 21 and 12 assists.

Oklahoma City has won the last two in the series after losing 19 of

the previous 20.

Playing without the injured Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks, who are

both still “weeks away” from returning, according to coach Rick

Adelman, Houston is coming off Friday’s 99-89 loss to Charlotte.

The Rockets, losers of five of six, led by seven points at

halftime, but were outscored by 11 in the third quarter and unable

to recover.

“We need to be smarter than that,” said Luis Scola, who was held

to 11 points – 10.5 less than his season average. “We’ve got to

know those runs are coming and we’ve got to not let that

happen.”

Houston also needs to shoot the ball better. The starting five

shot 34.7 percent (17 of 49) and the team finished with a season

low in points. The Rockets have lost all seven of their games when

scoring fewer than 100 points.

“It’s a make-or-miss league. By that, when you miss shots, the

sky is falling down,” said Shane Battier, who is averaging 8.3

points on 27.3 percent shooting in his last three games. “When you

make shots everything is honky-dory. Sometimes it is as simple as

that.”