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Mar 27, 2024 4:40 am

Rockets ride 9-game win streak into matchup with Thunder

houston rockets

The Oklahoma City Thunder are headed for the playoffs, and they are fighting for one of the top spots in the Western Conference.

The Houston Rockets are making an unexpected push for a spot in the West’s play-in tournament.

On Wednesday, the Thunder and Rockets meet in Oklahoma City, looking to help solidify their postseason futures with 11 games remaining in the regular season.

Houston (36-35) comes into the game on a nine-game winning streak, its longest since a nine-game run from Feb. 23, 2019 to March 13, 2019.

The Rockets haven’t had a longer streak since winning 11 consecutive games late in the 2017-18 season.

During the current streak, Jalen Green is averaging 29 points and shooting 50 percent from the field.

Against visiting Portland on Monday, Green scored 19 of his 27 points after halftime as the Rockets outscored the Trail Blazers by 22 points in the second half for a come-from-behind, 110-92 win.

In the first half, Green was just 3 of 12 from the floor and 1 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“Oh man, he’s been on a hot streak, so it’s not hard to get it back going,” Houston coach Ime Udoka said of Green.

A few weeks ago, the Rockets looked headed for a fourth consecutive losing season. Now, Houston has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2019-20.

“For sure, I’m looking at it,” Green said of the standings, which have the Rockets a game behind the Golden State Warriors (37-34) for the 10th spot in the Western Conference. “We’re making a push and we’re executing, so we’ve just got to stay the course.”

The Rockets will need to be successful on the road to make a playoff push, with seven of their 11 remaining games coming away from Houston.

“It’s about putting a consistent game together against a high-quality team,” Udoka said. “We just want to play consistent basketball regardless of the opponent.”

Oklahoma City (50-21) has won 15 of its past 19 games. The Thunder enter Wednesday’s action a half-game behind the Denver Nuggets (51-21) for the top spot in the Western Conference.

For just the second time this season, Thunder star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has gone three consecutive games without reaching the 30-point mark.

During the just-completed three-game road trip, Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.7 points and attempted five free throws per game, well below his per-game averages of 30.4 points and 8.7 free-throw attempts.

“He’s banged up, for sure,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said of Gilgeous-Alexander. “He’s not 100 percent. We’re monitoring it, but he’s certainly not 100 percent.”

Gilgeous-Alexander said he was dealing with a quad injury sustained March 20 against the Utah Jazz. Still, he hit a critical game-tying 3-pointer late in Oklahoma City’s 119-112 road win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday. The shot tied the game 112-112 with 1:29 to go, part of the Thunder’s game-ending, 12-0 run.

Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey contributed a season-high 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting, including 5-of-8 success from long range.

Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. is set to return after serving a one-game suspension for a fight with Utah’s Kris Dunn.

The Wednesday game is the last of four meetings between the teams this season. The Thunder won the past two after the Rockets won the first matchup.

–Field Level Media

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