|12:00 PM PT1:00 PM MT2:00 PM CT3:00 PM ET20:00 GMT4:00 1:00 PM MST3:00 PM EST0:00 UAE (+1)21:0015:00 ET2:00 PM CTNaN:� , December 25, 2018
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas Attendance: 18,055
Rivers will play as Rockets host Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets
- The Thunder have won three of their four games against the Rockets since Houston bounced them from the 2017 playoffs. Oklahoma City's 108-102 win in Houston on April 7, 2018 snapped a nine-game losing streak at the Toyota Center (reg. and postseason).
- The Thunder fell to the Timberwolves at home on Sunday, 114-112, halting their latest win streak at four games. Oklahoma City allowed Minnesota to shoot 51.9 percent (14/27) from behind the arc in the loss, dropping its record to 1-7 when its opponents shoot 42.0 percent or better from deep this season.
- The Rockets defeated the Spurs in Houston on Saturday, 108-101, their sixth home win in a row. The Rockets hoisted 54 three-pointers against San Antonio, the fourth time they have attempted 50 or more threes this season. The rest of the league has done it four times combined.
- Paul George is scoring 31.4 points per game in December, the second-highest average behind James Harden (34.2). George has averaged 30-plus points per game in a month only one other time in his career; in April 2017 he averaged 32.8 points over six games to get his team, Indiana, into the playoffs.
- James Harden scored 39 in the win over the Spurs, his sixth consecutive game with 30 points or more, the longest such streak of his career. The last Rocket to score 30-plus in more than six straight games was Moses Malone in 1982 (13 games).
- Russell Westbrook and the Thunder are 6-2 (.750) on Christmas Day in his career. He has scored 30.5 points per game in his last four games on December 25. James Harden had been 5-0 in his career on Christmas before falling to Westbrook and the Thunder, 112-107, last season.
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HOUSTON -- Despite positive results from their first victory without guard Chris Paul, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey acted with haste in patching the hole on his roster that could undermine advancement toward securing a playoff bid in the competitive Western Conference.
The Rockets on Monday announced the signing of free agent guard Austin Rivers, recently released by the Phoenix Suns following a trade that sent Rivers westward from Washington. Rivers, in his seventh season, has averaged 9.3 points and 2.4 assists over 437 career games with New Orleans, the Los Angeles Clippers, and the Wizards. Rivers posted career-best marks in points (15.1), assists (4.0), rebounds (2.4), and steals (1.2) last season with the Clippers.
With Paul expected to be sidelined between 2-4 weeks with a Grade-2 left hamstring strain, the Rockets opted not to roll the dice by increasing the workload on guards James Harden and Eric Gordon. Guard Brandon Knight recently returned from a knee injury that cost him almost two full seasons, but in averaging 14.9 minutes over the previous two games, it became clear that Knight isn't ready for such heavy minutes. That led Morey and the Rockets to Rivers.
"He can give us stuff, especially with Chris out, another ball handler, scorer," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "A guy that attacks, can play defense -- he's a good NBA player. It makes us deeper and it keeps us from having Eric to play too many minutes and different guys. Another good body. A lot of positive stuff."
Rivers will play on Tuesday when the Rockets (17-15) host the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-11) at Toyota Center. Houston has produced the fourth-best offensive rating (112.1) in the league this month and improved to 7-4 in December with a 108-101 home victory over the San Antonio Spurs last Saturday, their first victory in six games this season with Paul sidelined.
Rivers and Paul were teammates for three seasons in Los Angeles, and rumors abounded about their supposedly frosty relationship. Rivers was quick to dismiss those allegations prior to his first practice with the Rockets on Monday.
"I had no problems with Chris," Rivers said. "Obviously if I had a problem with Chris I wouldn't be here. Chris has a huge input on this team as he should; he's a Hall of Fame point guard. Obviously, if that was that serious I wouldn't be here. That just goes to show you that it's not real.
"That'll be quickly put to bed."
Stability and success have been companions for the Thunder, winners of 9 of 13 with two of those four losses coming by just two points. In the second game of a back-to-back, the Thunder fell 114-112 to the Minnesota Timberwolves at home on Sunday. Still, third-seeded Oklahoma City possesses the best point differential (6.4) and net rating (6.1) of all teams in the West.
Those margins have been built but the league's second-best defense (102.0 rating) and by prowess on the glass. Oklahoma City ranks fourth in rebounding percentage (52.0) and, especially concerning for the Rockets, first overall in offensive rebounding rate (31.4). Houston is 29th in defensive rebounding percentage (69.4) this season, ahead of only the Wizards.
"That's the game," Harden said. "Obviously, we know how really good they are defensively but rebounding (will be decisive)."
Updated December 25, 2018