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5:00 PM PT6:00 PM MT7:00 PM CT8:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)01:0020:00 ET6:00 PM CT23:00 , October 22, 2021
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas  Attendance: 15,674

Youthful Thunder hope to build on effort vs. rebuilding Rockets

According to STATS
According to STATS

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

  1. Oklahoma City is 8-3 in its last 11 games against Houston, including wins in each of the last two games last season. The Rockets are one of three teams that Oklahoma City beat twice in 2020-21 (Timberwolves and Spurs).
  2. The Thunder shot 37.4 percent from the field in their season-opening loss to the Jazz. Oklahoma City finished last season shooting 44.1 percent, which was second worst in the NBA, ahead of only the Magic.
  3. Rookie Josh Giddey secured 10 rebounds in his debut against Utah. Prior to Giddey, the last player for the Thunder franchise to have 7+ rebounds in an NBA debut was Xavier McDaniel, who had seven rebounds for the Sonics in the 1985-86 opener.
  4. Houston dropped its season opener, 124-106, to Minnesota after trailing by 29 points at one point in the first half. Over the last 20 seasons, the Rockets have had a larger first-half deficit just twice with a 41-point deficit at Miami in 2019 and a 32-point deficit at Phoenix in 2006.
  5. Christian Wood led the Rockets in scoring with 16 points and rebounds with nine in their season opener. In his second year in Houston, Wood has led the Rockets in both points and rebounds in nine different games, six more times than any other Houston player since the beginning of last season.
  6. Since the beginning of April, the Rockets and Thunder are a combined 6-46 with Oklahoma City having two wins and Houston having four. No other NBA teams have fewer than five wins in that timeframe.

The Houston Rockets had reason to expect growing pains in the early stages of this season given their reliance on talented yet relatively inexperienced players to orchestrate their rebuild.

The first step was a doozy. The Rockets trailed by as many as 35 points in their 124-106 road loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday. The young backcourt tandem of Kevin Porter Jr. and rookie Jalen Green shot a combined 8 for 26 while totaling 20 points. Porter had nine of the Rockets' 24 turnovers while Green posted a plus/minus of minus-37 in 32 minutes.

The Rockets are anticipating better days ahead, perhaps as early as Friday when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder in their home opener at Toyota Center.

Minnesota scored 38 points off those Houston turnovers and dominated in other facets that showcased a glaring physical advantage, with 13 blocked shots jumping off the stat sheet. The Rockets are a relatively lithe team, not just with Porter and Green at guard but also with 6-foot-9 Christian Wood, arguably their best player, operating at center.

Houston got its first taste of an opponent attempting bully tactics, and based on the result, it certainly won't be the last time.

"The physicality was going to be an issue that we would have to step up to," Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. "I think their physicality, their attention, their aggression led to some turnovers that we had early in the game and it definitely snowballed off those turnovers.

"It's a learning experience for sure. And we've got to do better."

Like the Rockets, the Thunder skew heavily toward youth. Guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the undeniable leader and linchpin for the Thunder, the focal point of their rebuilding plan.

But Gilgeous-Alexander is 23 years old and is entering his fourth season. Darius Bazley and Lu Dort are complementary pieces, but both have just two seasons of NBA experience under their belts and are 21 and 22 years old, respectively. And in the opener Wednesday at Utah, the Thunder played four rookies: Josh Giddey, Vit Krejci, Tre Mann and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

"They went out there and competed. They didn't look overwhelmed at all," said Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault. "They competed, played to the game plan and gave us good minutes."

While the Thunder mustered a spirited effort, their lone lead came when Gilgeous-Alexander scored the first basket of the game. Utah led by as many as 26 points en route to a 107-86 victory, leaving Oklahoma City to hang its hat on the effort as opposed to the result, a scenario likely to unfold numerous times over the course of an 82-game schedule.

"We did a lot of good things against a really, really good team," Daigneault said. "There's a lot of lessons we can draw from it and it's good to play against a team like them because they're going to expose the things that you need to improve at and we're going to get to work to improve those."

--Field Level Media

Updated October 21, 2021

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