The Oklahoma City Thunder took advantage of the absence of Kyle Lowry to beat the Houston Rockets twice in January.
Lowry will be out again for the visiting Rockets on Tuesday night when these clubs complete their season series.
Oklahoma City (32-9) won on back-to-back nights Jan. 6-7 over Houston (22-20) with Lowry out with a bruised right foot. He showed the impact he can have with 11 points and nine assists while helping force Russell Westbrook into six turnovers in the Rockets' 96-95 win over the Thunder on Feb. 15.
Lowry, however, checked himself into a New York-area hospital with a high fever last week. He will miss two to four weeks with a bacterial infection after sitting out the last two games.
Goran Dragic has averaged 21.5 points and 8.0 assists the last two games in Lowry's place. Dragic's other two starts this season were against the Thunder when he averaged 15.0 points and 9.5 assists.
Neither one of these teams is known for passing the ball, with Houston in the middle of the pack with 20.5 assists per game and Oklahoma City among the league's worst at 18.1.
The Thunder, however, had a season-high 27 assists Saturday to cruise to a 122-95 rout of league-worst Charlotte. James Harden scored a career-high 33 points, Kevin Durant had 26 and Westbrook 23.
"It's pretty high for us," said Durant about the assist total. "Everybody was moving the ball, everybody came out and did a great job when they stepped on the floor."
Oklahoma City's surprising assist leader Saturday was rookie Reggie Jackson, a first-round pick who had seven.
"Once we start sharing it, people really can't pressure us, then you start getting shots easier," Jackson said. "The game just becomes easier."
The Thunder are finishing up a five-game stretch at home, where they are 18-2 to tie Miami and the Lakers for the NBA's best mark. They went through a grueling practice Monday to get ready for this contest.
"It's the first time we've really scrimmaged 5-on-5 in a while so that was really nice," coach Scott Brooks said. "We had a couple four-minute scrimmages, we had a couple defensive drills that were really good. I thought today's practice was good. We got after it today."
Houston has dropped six of seven as it finishes a five-game road trip. The Rockets fell 118-107 to Cleveland on Sunday and have allowed two straight opponents to shoot over 50 percent for the first time this season.
"This is a bad part of the year for us," said forward Luis Scola, who scored a season-high 30 points. "We're struggling. We're not playing the right way. We don't have confidence and things aren't working out our way."
Top scorer Kevin Martin can't be confident after totaling 15 points on 4-of-18 shooting in his last three games. Martin had 32 in last month's victory over the Thunder, making the winning free throws with 23.6 seconds remaining.
Martin and the Rockets will have to be wary of the NBA's leading shot blocker in Serge Ibaka, who has 21 over his last five games while averaging 3.2 on the season.