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Preview: Thunder (59-23) at Rockets (54-28)
BT Movements  ·  Line Movements
Date: January 16, 2014 9:30 PM EDT
  

Since acquiring James Harden from Oklahoma City in October 2012, the Houston Rockets haven't fared too well against the Thunder - except when Harden has a career-best night.

Harden will look for a better performance than his last time out against his former team when he and the Thunder's Kevin Durant square off Thursday night in a matchup of two of the NBA's top scorers.

Harden, who won the NBA's Sixth Man award after his final season in Oklahoma City, has gone 1-3 against the Thunder in the regular season while with Houston. He scored a career-best 46 points in the lone victory, a 122-119 win on Feb. 20. Harden and the Rockets were also ousted from last season's playoffs by Oklahoma City in six games.

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The aggressive guard, who is averaging 24.6 points, had his lowest total of the season in Houston's first meeting with the Thunder, finishing with eight points on 2-of-9 shooting in a 117-86 road loss on Dec. 29. It was one of only four games this season in which Houston has been held below 90 points.

But Harden has bounced back nicely, scoring 29.3 points per game to help the Rockets (26-14) go 5-2 since that loss. He is shooting 48.4 percent from the field since Dec. 31.

The only NBA player that seems to be having a better time of it in the new year is Durant, who is averaging 34.8 points in Oklahoma City's last eight games. The Thunder (28-10), however, have lost five of those contests.

The Rockets come into this matchup having won three straight, all on the road, following a 103-100 win at New Orleans on Wednesday. Harden hit a tiebreaking jumper with 28 seconds to go to cap a fourth-quarter rally from 17 down. Harden had 26 points and seven assists, while Terrence Jones scored a season-high 25.

"We have to play the same way every night, and we didn't bring that effort in the beginning," said Dwight Howard, who chipped in with 12 points and 11 rebounds. "We picked it up late in the game, but we have to really start games better."

Houston matched a season low with four 3-pointers, but the Rockets got 16 points off turnovers and owned a 58-30 scoring advantage in the paint. Houston has dominated down low in its last four victories, averaging 54.0 points in the paint.

The Thunder have one of the better post defenses in the NBA, allowing only 38.3 points per game in the paint. Still, the team can be vulnerable near the basket.

Memphis scored 42 points down low in a 90-87 win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday. The Thunder's defensive struggles also translated to the offensive end, where they shot 23.8 percent from 3-point range.

"We talk about that with the group all the time. It's connected," coach Scott Brooks told the team's official website. "Bad defense leads to bad offense. You have to be able to be good at both of them if you want to be a good team in this league. We strive to be a good team and a consistent team."

Durant, who had 33 points and 13 rebounds in the first meeting with Houston, scored 37 against the Grizzlies - giving him at least 30 in five of his last six games. He scored 48 points twice in that span and is averaging an NBA-leading 29.8 on the season.

In last year's first-round playoff series, Durant averaged 32.5 points, while Harden led the Rockets with 26.3 per game.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

 CURRENT LAS VEGAS LINE
 Team  ML   SPR   O/U 
 OKL  +120   +2.5   208.5 
 HOU  -140   -2.5   
LAS VEGAS LINE MOVEMENTS

 CURRENT SPORTSBOOK LINE
 Team  ML   SPR   O/U 
 OKL  +130   +3   208.5 
 HOU  -150   -3   
OFFSHORE LINE MOVEMENTS

 BETTING TRENDS
 Team  ML   SPR   O/U 
 OKL  31%   32%   67% 
 HOU  69%   68%   33% 
BT MOVEMENTS

 NBA HEAD TO HEAD
 Dec 29, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 HOU 86 Under: 203 
 OKL 117 Cover: 26.5 
 Tools:   Recaps
 May 3, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 OKL 103 Cover: 8 
 HOU 94 Under: 197 
 Tools:   Recaps
 May 1, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 HOU 107 Cover: 16 
 OKL 100 Under: 207 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Apr 29, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 OKL 103 Over: 208 
 HOU 105 Cover: 3.5 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Apr 27, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 OKL 104 Cover: 4 
 HOU 101 Under: 205 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Apr 24, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 HOU 102 Cover: 8.5 
 OKL 105 Under: 207 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Apr 21, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 HOU 91 Under: 211 
 OKL 120 Cover: 18.5 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Feb 20, 2013  Score  ATS Results 
 OKL 119 Over: 241 
 HOU 122 Cover: 6 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Dec 29, 2012  Score  ATS Results 
 OKL 124 Cover: 25.5 
 HOU 94 Over: 218 
 Tools:   Recaps
 Nov 28, 2012  Score  ATS Results 
 HOU 98 Over: 218 
 OKL 120 Cover: 11.5 
 Tools:   Recaps

 NBA PREVIEWS
 Thursday, Jan 16
 
    Nets at Hawks
3:05 PM EDT
    Knicks at Pacers
7:10 PM EDT
    Thunder at Rockets
9:40 PM EDT
 
 
 
  
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