Both the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets are coming off overtime losses to the reigning NBA champions, but while the defeat was somewhat of a moral victory for the young Thunder, it felt more like a missed opportunity for Houston.
The host Rockets will have a good chance to get back on track Friday night as they try for an 11th straight win over Oklahoma City, which is trying to avoid a third consecutive loss amid a promising start.
One night after the Los Angeles Lakers won 101-98 in overtime in Oklahoma City, they beat the Rockets 103-102 on Wednesday. Houston fell just short of a fourth straight win even though it continues to play without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady.
First-year Rocket Trevor Ariza hit a tying 3-pointer against his former team at the end of regulation, but he was stripped of the ball with a chance to win the game at the end of overtime.
"I thought we should have won," coach Rick Adelman told the Rockets' official Web site. "I thought we had a great chance of winning. I thought we should have won, but things happen and you have to move on."
Ariza was 5 of 21 (23.8 percent) from the field in perhaps his worst performance since joining Houston, but he's helped spark a more up-tempo attack for the short-handed Rockets, who have averaged 108.5 points in their last four games.
They will hope to have rookie forward Chase Budinger back in the lineup after he sat out Wednesday with a sprained ankle. He scored 17 points in a 113-96 win at Utah on Monday.
While Houston (3-2) is looking to overcome injuries and reach the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Thunder are trying to prove their lengthy rebuilding project is nearing an end.
Oklahoma City (2-2) opened with victories over Sacramento and Detroit before going cold in Sunday's 83-74 loss to Portland. The Thunder looked much better against Los Angeles and seemed optimistic despite falling victim to a 41-point performance by Kobe Bryant.
"Going into overtime against a team like the Lakers is something that we say we can pride ourselves on," swingman Thabo Sefolosha said. "Even though we lost, we had a lot of opportunities to win this game."
Things may have turned out better for the Thunder had Kevin Durant not gone through a second straight woeful night from beyond the arc. He was 0 of 8 from long range and has missed all 13 of his 3-point attempts in his last two games.
Durant also airballed a 17-footer in the final minute of overtime that would have put Oklahoma City ahead.
"We tell him he's going to be in that situation a lot, and every time you're in that situation, you learn from it," point guard Kevin Ollie said. "I think he's going to get better and better as we go on through this season, and he's going to have the opportunity once again. I think he's going to step up and knock down the shots and we're going to win games. We're going to ride it out with Kevin."
Oklahoma City has lost all seven meetings with the Rockets since drafting Durant with the second overall pick in 2007, dropping 10 straight overall in the series dating to a 104-87 win in Seattle on April 4, 2006.
The franchise hasn't won in Houston since Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen still starred for the SuperSonics in an 87-85 victory Feb. 22, 2005.