Near the end of Monday night’s game in Oklahoma City, the Houston Rockets players on the bench cheered wildly for their teammates to keep shooting 3-pointers.
In the 136-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Rockets hit 28 3-pointers, setting a franchise record and coming within one of the NBA mark.
The players on the bench at the end of the game were mainly those who started the game, setting the tone with a 48-point first quarter — the Rockets’ second 48-point quarter in as many games.
“Of course, I wanted the record,” Rockets guard Eric Gordon said. “That’s no question.”
On Wednesday, the Rockets and Thunder will meet for the second consecutive game in Oklahoma City with Houston having won six in a row.
While Houston’s offensive explosion recently has garnered plenty of attention, it has been fueled by the defensive side.
When the Rockets made the trade in mid-January that sent James Harden to Brooklyn and brought in Victor Oladipo, they were No. 22 in defense in the NBA.
Since that trade, the Rockets have led the NBA on that side of the ball.
“The start of the game is something we’ve been focusing on,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said after Monday’s win. “Tonight, it was our defense. I mean, we did have 48 points, but I chose to focus on the 24 that we gave up. We were switching. We were active. We made it hard on them. So then we were able to run it out, and when we run and we get the ball up the floor quickly, we’re pretty good.”
They’ve also made a big leap in moving the ball, sitting near the bottom of the league in passes per game before the trade but near the top since.
On the other side, the Thunder have dropped back-to-back games giving up an average of 42 points in the first quarter.
While Houston’s defense has surged, the Thunder’s has soured recently.
Defense kept Oklahoma City afloat early, but even that end of the floor has been a problem recently.
“We need to find the stuff that we can control,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “I think slumps are an emotional thing. We try to use process and fundamentals to really root down and control the stuff we can control.”
Blowouts are becoming the norm for the Thunder. Of Oklahoma City’s 11 losses, only two have been decided by fewer than 10 points. The last two have been decided by an average of 26 points.
The Thunder were in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency until recently but have plummeted near the bottom, currently ranking No. 27.
“It does concern me,” veteran Al Horford said. “We can be much better.”
The Thunder has been without starter George Hill for four consecutive games due to a right thumb sprain.
Wednesday’s game will mark their first without reserve forward Aleksej Pokusevski, after the rookie left the team following Monday’s game to join the G League bubble. Pokusevski has averaged 17.4 minutes, playing in all but two games for Oklahoma City this season.
–Field Level Media