ROCKETS AT THUNDER, 8 P.M. ET

TV:  NBA TV

  • The Rockets flew into Oklahoma City this afternoon, landing about 2:30 then bussed directly to the arena. Instead of flying into OKC last night after their home win over Toronto the Rockets flew to Minneapolis to attend the funeral of head coach Kevin McHale’s daughter. Lead assistant Kelvin Sampson, a former head coach at the University of Oklahoma, will again be running the team. “I just told Kevin we love him and we’re all thinking about him and his family. It was very, very emotional. He had a hug and something to say to every person in our party.” The Rockets are 5-4 during Sampson’s time at the helm. The acting head coach isn’t sure how his team will respond in the game tonight. “I walked in the locker room and half our team was layin on the floor with towels over their heads trying to take a nap. But we’re not trying to do anything complicated tonight, just play a basketball game.”
  • Last night former Thunder star James Harden told reporters in Houston making his first return trip to OKC would be no big deal, “I’m on the road to get a win,” he said then, “no different than when we play at Memphis or Atlanta.” Tonight, standing just outside the visitors locker room inside Chesapeake Energy Arena, Harden said, “It was joyful to see the guys, to see them and joke around with them for a few minutes but it’s strange to be warming up on the other side.” How does he expect his former fans to greet him? “Hopefully I’ll get some claps, hopefully I’ll see some beards in the crowd.” Does he think he’ll hear some boos? “Naw, these fans aren’t like that here.”
  • The Rockets will be without starting forward Chandler Parsons tonight who hurt his right shoulder late in last night’s game. Parsons is averaging 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.
  • All five of Houston’s starters are scoring in double figures but so far it’s pretty much been as Harden goes, so go the Rockets. When Harden shoots 45 percent or better the Rockets are 6-0, when he shoots less than 45 percent they’re 1-7.
  • Both teams come in hot. OKC has won five of the last six and 10 of the last 12. After losing three straight on the road the Rockets are now riding a three game winning streak but all three of those wins came in Houston. The Rockets are back out on the road now where they have lost four in a row.
  • Thunder defensive specialist Thabo Sefolosha will start the game defending Harden but OKC head coach Scott Brooks told reporters most everyone will get a take a crack at some point.

Randy Renner

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