Last Updated: 2018-11-08
It’s been a weird start to the season for the Houston Rockets. The Rockets are 4-5, and they have yet to win a game at home. However, they are 4-1 on the road, and they have picked up three straight wins away from the Toyota Center heading into their bout with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night. Oklahoma City are off to a 6-4 start, and they are riding a winning streak coming into this one. The Thunder have won six in a row after losing their first four to cool down Billy Donovan’s hot seat.
The big question ahead of this one is whether or not Russell Westbrook will play. His chances of playing here after leaving Monday’s game against New Orleans with a sprained ankle appear slim, but he has yet to be ruled out by the team. He sat out of Wednesday night’s game against Cleveland and he is listed as day-to-day.
Houston won’t have Michael Carter-Williams (illness) or Brandon Knight (knee) available for this game. However, there is a possibility that Eric Gordon returns to the lineup. Gordon practiced on Wednesday after missing the last two games with a strained adductor, and the Rockets have listed him as questionable.
Due to Westbrook’s injury, the Thunder are a home underdog on the NBA betting line coming into this game. They opened up as a 4.5-point underdog, but that number has since come down to 3.5 as of Thursday morning. The total has moved down a little as well, dropping from 214.5 to 214 per the NBA odds.
What’s at Stake?
The main storyline coming into this game is Carmelo Anthony. Anthony made the decision to join James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston rather than stay another year with Westbrook and Paul George in OKC. He has not gotten off to a great start in Mike D’Antoni’s up-tempo offense, and the decision to leave doesn’t look great at the moment.
This is also a chance for Harden to show up the team that traded him once again. The decision to trade Harden was the worst move the Thunder have made, as they have not returned to the NBA Finals since dealing him to Houston.
Houston is in the middle of a five-game road trip, but the Rockets should be well-rested ahead of this game. The Rockets have had two days off prior to their trip to Oklahoma City, so fatigue should not be a concern.
The Thunder might be a bit worn down though. They went on the road to take on Cleveland last night, and Steven Adams, Dennis Schroder, and George played big minutes without Westbrook in the lineup.
Not being able to hit threes has directly led to the Rockets struggles. This is a team that lives and dies at the three-point line, but they haven’t been getting their perimeter shots to fall through the first nine games. They are sinking just 33.4 percent of their treys, and Harden has been the only consistent shooter from range. He is hitting 43.1 percent of his triples, while Paul and Gordon are hitting less than 30 percent.
They might not figure it out against the Thunder either. Oklahoma City has the fifth-best perimeter defense in the NBA early on, as the Thunder have allowed opponents to hit just 32.4 percent of their three-pointers.
If the Thunder don’t have Westbrook once again, look for Schroder to have a big day. The Rockets don’t play good defense, especially against guards, and Schroder led the offense last night against Cleveland. He went 11-19 from the floor, and he showed that he was willing to be a lighter version of Russ that didn’t pass.
I like the under a lot in this one. The Thunder play good perimeter defense and the Rockets have struggled with their three-point shooting. My only concern is that this is the second part of a back-to-back, so fatigue could wear down the guards in the second half. Additionally, I would play the under in assist totals for Oklahoma City’s stars, as the offense ran a lot of isolation last night in the win over in Cleveland.
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