The Thunder just played Houston for the third time in a span of four weeks, and the teams will meet for the fourth and final time on Jan. 12. However, the Thunder has yet to play its next five opponents â€” Sacramento (Friday), Phoenix (Sunday), at Charlotte (Tuesday), at New York (Wednesday) and Denver on Christmas night.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks said it adds to the scouting responsibilities of the staff and players, "but guys know each other's tendencies pretty well. The first time you play a team, you (scout) to know their pet plays, their personality, their go-to plays, their fourth-quarter plays."
The Thunder's strength of schedule has dipped lately and will continue to do so with upcoming games against the Kings (5-18), Suns (12-12) and Bobcats (9-16).
The degree of difficulty then increases with contests against the Knicks (16-10), Nuggets (15-9) and Dallas (20-5).
The Thunder's strength of schedule ranks 17th in the league (.505) this season, but ranks 27th in the last 10 games (.425).
EASY DOES IT
Wednesday's 117-105 victory over Houston featured perhaps the Thunder's most balanced offensive attack of the season. Thabo Sefolosha (a season-high 15 points and nine rebounds) and reserve James Harden (16 points, four assists, four rebounds) excelled, but Brooks said he was impressed with the play of point guard Russell Westbrook, even though his 17 points, five assists and three rebounds were all below his season averages.
"We all look at Russell and the stats he produces game in and game out, and sometimes we just take it for granted," Brooks said. "Statistically, it wasn't one of his better games, but I thought he played good. He really played solid defensively and made some great decisions on the offensive end. I liked what I saw."