Thunder-Rockets Preview

The Associated Press

The Oklahoma City Thunder own the best record in the NBA, and the venue hasn't made much of a difference.

The Houston Rockets have first-hand experience of that.

Fresh off a pair of dominant performances, the Thunder look to continue their success against the Rockets on Wednesday night in Houston.

Oklahoma City (22-6) leads the league thanks in part to a seven-game home winning streak, but the Thunder have also found success away from home, leading the NBA with a 12-5 road record. They've won three of their last four on the road including a 101-87 victory at Utah on Friday.

The Thunder followed that up Tuesday by pounding the Jazz again, winning 111-85 at home while shooting 54.5 percent from the field.

"We wanted to play a little harder," All-Star forward Kevin Durant told the Thunder's official website. "Coach (Scott Brooks) said that we gave them too many easy plays last game, so we just tried to take that away by having a little bit more toughness and effort. I think that was what we did. We kind of focused on that, and guys are playing hard and playing together. That's the ingredients for us to get a win."

Durant has been a vital ingredient during the Thunder's four-game winning streak over Houston (16-13), averaging 28.8 points while making 55.3 percent of his field-goal attempts.

Oklahoma City swept a home-and-home set from the Rockets on Jan. 6 and 7, winning the opener 109-94 at home and prevailing 98-95 at Houston behind 27 points from Durant and 25 from Russell Westbrook.

Serge Ibaka totaled 13 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks in last month's two meetings with Houston, and he's been much better of late, 32 points (shooting 14 of 18), 21 boards and eight blocked shots over the last two contests.

"He's getting better every game," Brooks said of Ibaka. "His growth, his development is encouraging. Every day he works, and you can see the work that he puts in on the floor paying off for him."

The Rockets are trying to avoid dropping three straight for the first time since a season-high four-game skid Jan. 3-7. Improved play from Kevin Martin would help.

Houston's leading scorer with 17.7 points per game on the season, Martin has averaged only 7.3 over the last six games. He failed to get a point for the first time in six years Tuesday, missing all three of his shots in a 93-83 loss at Memphis as the Rockets wrapped up a 3-3 road trip.

A return home could spark Martin and the Rockets. He's averaging 22.8 points at the Toyota Center, where the team is 10-3 and scoring 100.2 points per game.

However, Martin wasn't anything special in the home loss to the Thunder last month, finishing with 16 points and shooting 4 of 11.

Power forward Luis Scola was a bright spot for Houston in the Jan. 7 loss, scoring a season-high 28 points and adding seven rebounds. He wasn't as productive in Tuesday's defeat with nine points and five boards.

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