The Thunder hope that nearly a full week of uninterrupted practice could help sync-up their offense when they visit the Rockets. The Thunder have been off since Friday’s 99-95 home win over the Jazz and their practices have been intense because they have been held under 100 points in three straight games four times this season, something that didn’t happen once over the previous two years. The win over the Jazz was preceded by losses in Sacramento and Golden State, and the Thunder shot 36.3 percent, including 26.6 from three-point range, over those three games.
Kevin Durant has done his part when healthy. He had 32 points against the Jazz, is shooting 52.2 percent and is averaging 29.6 points in five games back from his latest absence. The Thunder are 10-4 with Durant, who has averaged 34.8 points over a 3-1 stretch against the Rockets.
Russell Westbrook, who has missed four of the Thunder’s last five games against the Rockets, had 25 points on 9 of 17 shooting against the Jazz after a five-game span in which he shot 27.3 percent.
Durant and Westbrook are getting used to playing with Dion Waiters, who has been in two games with the Thunder after being acquired from the Cavaliers. Waiters had 15 points and shot 7-for-14 after going 1 of 9 in his debut on January 7 against the Kings.
The Rockets have won their last two games against the Thunder but they didn’t play well in their 69-65 win in Oklahoma City on November 16, when they shot 28.8 percent, while the Thunder connected on 29.4, both season lows.
Houston had won four straight prior to last night’s 120-113 loss in Orlando. James Harden, who leads the league in scoring, finished with 26 points against the Magic and is shooting 62.8 percent in his last three games.
Harden hasn’t played consistently against his former team, averaging 22.0 points on 36.5 percent shooting over a 2-3 stretch against the Thunder after going 5 of 17 for a game-high 19 points on November 16.
Dwight Howard hasn’t fared better against the Thunder with 9.2 points per game on 31.8 percent shooting in his last six meetings.
Houston’s biggest issue against Orlando was that they had 21 turnovers. Taking care of the ball is key for the Rockets, who are 7-5 when committing at least 20 turnovers and 20-7 when staying under that mark.
LeBron James and the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers will resume a five-game road trip Thursday against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center.
The Cavaliers have lost six in a row and 10 of the last 12 games, and are coming off Tuesday’s 107-100 setback to the Phoenix Suns. James returned from an eight-game absence (1-7) to score 33 points and J.R. Smith added 29.
“Yesterday at practice my lungs were burning and I guess I was able to get my second wind today,” said James. “I couldn’t make those moves two weeks ago. To come back and feel the way I like to feel was pretty cool.”
Tristan Thompson scored 10 points off the bench for Cleveland, which shot 43.9 percent and received a combined 18 points from Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
Cleveland is 8-11 on the road and has lost four straight as the guest. It will play the Clippers Friday night.
The Lakers have dropped two in a row and four of their last five games, and suffered a 78-75 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
NBA release 01/15/2015