The Houston Rockets finally hit a rough patch despite James Harden’s historic performances and dropped the last two after winning 14 in a row. Harden will try to post his third straight 50-plus outing and lead the Rockets to a win when they visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day.
Harden became the first player since Kobe Bryant in 2007 to reach 50 in back-to-back games when he went for 51 against the Lakers on Wednesday and hit that number again against the Clippers on Friday, but he also joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players to reach 50 points in consecutive losses. “We lost,” Harden told reporters when asked about his historic scoring binge. “It doesn’t matter.” The Thunder are finally beginning to surge with wins in four straight games as the roles become more clearly defined for their three star players. “We’re playing well,” forward Paul George told reporters after a 103-89 win at the Utah Jazz on Saturday. “We’re playing for one another. Our defense is holding up and offensively we’re starting to get a little flow.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (25-6): The last two games were finished without point guard Chris Paul, who left in the fourth quarter on Wednesday with a left adductor strain and sat out Friday. The All-Star is day-to-day and remains questionable for Monday’s marquee matchup. “Our aura is not right,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters after Friday’s setback. “These guys are a little tired. We’ve got to get guys back. This is an episode, a couple of episodes. The last two games, we just didn’t play well enough and without the spirit and all that. Guys are kind of a little dead. Whether it’s tiredness or whether they’re into themselves a little too much, I don’t know. We’ll work on it, but obviously it’s not good enough.”
ABOUT THE THUNDER (18-15): Carmelo Anthony is adjusting to his role playing off the ball and Paul George is turning into a defensive stopper for Oklahoma City, but Russell Westbrook is still running the show. Westbrook is averaging 29.8 points on 59.8 percent shooting with 9.5 assists and nine rebounds during the four-game winning streak, and collected his fifth triple-double of the month in Saturday’s win. George showed off his defensive prowess with six steals against the Jazz and has multiple thefts in each of the last seven contests.
1. Rockets C Clint Capela (heel), who leads the NBA with a field-goal percentage of .694, sat out the last two games and remains day-to-day.
2. Oklahoma City C Steven Adams is averaging 16.1 points this month after putting up 10.3 in November.
3. Houston took three of the four meetings last season despite Westbrook averaging 36.3 points in the four games.
PREDICTION: Rockets 116, Thunder 109