Are you threatening me?
Houston Rockets (29-39) @ New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets (32-33)
Thursday, March 23, 8:00 p.m.
The Rockets conclude their current road trip Thursday in Oklahoma City against the Hornets. Houston (29-39) heads to Oklahoma City after an 88-72 loss to the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday. The Hornets (32-33) defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 120-108 in New Orleans to snap an eight-game losing streak.
The Hornets are currently in ninth place in the Western Conference playoff race and will be looking to win consecutive games for the first time since the last week of February.
While the Rockets may no longer share post-season hopes with the Hornets, they still need a win badly on Thursday. After Tuesday’s loss to the Mavericks, the Rockets are now 0-13 in the Southwest Division. Houston is the only team in the NBA without a divisional win this season. Only one other team in the last nine years has lost each of its first 13 games against teams within its own division and coincidentally enough, that team was the Hornets. New Orleans lost their first 14 games against Southwest Division teams last season before their resurgence this year.
Yao Ming will be looking to bounce back from a so-so effort against Dallas on Tuesday. Not that 13 points and 13 rebounds is anything to shake a stick at, but it isn’t up to Yao’s standards as of late. Since the All-Star break Yao has been playing the best basketball of his career, averaging close to 28 points and over 12 rebounds a game.
The Mavericks gave a good blueprint Tuesday on how to defend the new and improved Yao. Dallas threw two and sometimes three defenders at the Houston big man, daring the Rockets to score from the perimeter.
With Tracy McGrady and David Wesley sidelined, Houston’s firepower from outside was severely limited, and the result was a season-low 72-point output.
While the Rockets were struggling offensively Tuesday, the Hornets were rolling in their last game at New Orleans Arena this season, scoring 120 points against a very good Clippers team.
The Hornets were led by Rasual Butler, who scored a career-high 32 points, hitting on seven of his nine shots from three-point range. That could spell disaster for the Rockets, who are still strong defensively without McGrady and Wesley, but have shown a tendency to not close out on perimeter shooters.