Bricktown Beat

Thunder vs. Rockets Game Preview: What to expect in game one of baseball set

Oklahoma City Thunder (8-10) vs. Houston Rockets (9-9)

Tip Off: 7pm CST

Overview:

Oklahoma City is entering Monday night looking to get back on track after a blowout loss vs. the Brooklyn Nets on Friday. For the Houston Rockets, they have gotten in sync since the departure of James Harden, currently riding on a five game win streak. This game has some addition incentives to it for both sides as Oklahoma City owns the Houston Rockets first-round pick (protected 1-4.)

Note: Oklahoma City and Houston will face off again on Wednesday, as this is their first of two games in their “baseball set.”

Injuries:

For the Rockets, their only absence is from guard David Nwaba.

Oklahoma City will be missing forward Josh Hall, Ty Jerome, and George Hill for the contest.

Hill’s thumb injury will sideline him for the third game in a row, giving way for rookie Theo Maledon to get his third straight start.

Players To Watch:

Theo Maledon

The 19-year-old rookie put up a record-setting performance on Friday, dropping a career-high 24 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists on 6/6 from three. If Maledon is able to play at the same level off the ball just as he has on the ball, he may be on track for another luminescent performance alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Theo Maledon will not have it easy though, as he will be facing one of the leagues premier guards in Victor Oladipo. Oladipo has been guns blazing upon his arrival to Space City, averaging 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists a night. The 1x All-Star’s game extends to the defensive side of the ball, being a member of an All-Defensive team and being a Steal Champion in his 7-year career.

Isaiah Roby, Christian Wood, and Al Horford

For Isaiah Roby, his role in his previous two games have been puzzling as he went from playing over 26 minutes a game replacing Al Horford, to just 11 minutes in the last two contests. The 22-year-old’s presence may be crucial as the Thunder face one of the league’s most polarizing bigs in Christian Wood. Wood has led the Rockets in points (23.6) and rebounds (10.7) this season, and have emerged as a viable first option. Wood’s not your traditional five, as he uses his size and speed to drive in like a guard, and sagging off will make you pay, as he is a 38% shooter from deep.

A real question comes up when you ask who should actually be defending the 6-foot-10 big. Al Horford provides a safety net around the glass and can get hot from deep, but his lack of speed makes him a liability defending Wood up top. Playing tight results in easy blow-by’s while sagging gives up an open three, or even still an athletic drive. Isaiah Roby’s case to make is almost the inverse of Big Al. Isaiah Roby’s speed at the position makes him a better option defending Wood from up top, but the issue starts at the interior, as his 6-foot-8 frame leaves him susceptible to finishes inside in addition to rebounds and second-chances.


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