The Houston Rockets (32-22; 25-28-1 ATS) will meet the Oklahoma City Thunder (35-19; 31-23 ATS) for the third time this season, and the series is tied as each team has won on the home court. The Rockets won the previous duel 113-109 as 1-point underdogs on Christmas day and are 4-3 straight up and 3-4 ATS in their previous seven meetings with the Thunder.
Oklahoma City is coming off a 117-95 home win over the short-handed Memphis Grizzlies despite trailing at halftime. The Thunder has won four of its previous five outings, losing only at the Boston Celtics 134-129. The Rockets are on a three-game winning streak following a 127-101 victory at the Sacramento Kings, sitting at the 5th spot of the Western Conference standings three games behind the No. 3 seed Oklahoma City.
The Thunder are still without Andre Roberson who’s recovering from knee surgery and he’s yet to play minutes this season. Alex Abrines (personal) also stay out indefinitely. The Rockets are missing Clint Capela (thumb) who could return later this month, while all other players are ready to go which is quite an unusual situation for the Rockets this season.
The Rockets opened as 1.5-point favorites with the total at 235.5 points and the Thunder at +105 money line odds. Houston is 5-2 straight up and 3-4 ATS in its last seven games at Toyota Center, and the over is 5-2 in that span. The Thunder is 4-3 straight up and ATS in its previous seven showings on the road, and the over is 6-1 during that stretch. Also, the under is 5-1-1 in the last seven head-to-head duels between these two foes.
What’s at Stake?
The Thunder and the Rockets will play four times against each other this season, so this game won’t decide the winner of the series. Still, the Rockets will try to improve their position and will need to beat higher-placed teams in order to reach the top four seeds in the West. On the other side, the Thunder is just two games behind the Nuggets at the 2nd spot and surpassing their divisional rivals will get the Thunder the Northwest title.
The Rockets have just finished their four-game road trip, winning three games in a row following a 136-122 defeat at Denver at the start of the journey. They will stay at home after the matchup with OKC to welcome the Dallas Mavericks Monday night. The Thunder is coming off two straight games at home and will come back to Oklahoma to welcome the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night.
This is always an emotional matchup for James Harden who started his career with the Thunder but couldn’t find his place under the sun alongside Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. The reigning MVP is having another strong campaign, leading the league with 36.5 points per game while making 44.4% of his field goals and 37.5% of his 3-pointers. The Beard has scored 30+ points in 28 consecutive games and he’s still counting, averaging whopping 41.1 points over his previous ten outings. He will be highly motivated to put on another strong performance tonight, no doubt.
On the other side, Russell Westbrook is averaging a triple-double per game with 21.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 11.2 assists, and Russ posted a triple-double in eight straight games, so he’ll try to tie with Wilt Chamberlain on the top of the list tonight. Also, Paul George is playing the best season of his career, tallying 28.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per contest while hitting 45.0% of his field goals and 40.8% of his 3-point attempts. George is scoring 34.0 points per game over his last ten showings while shooting 47.7% from the field.
Oklahoma City is scoring 110.8 points per 100 possessions (14th in the league) on 46.2% shooting from the field (15th) and 35.3% from beyond the arc (13th), making 22.5 assists (25th) and posting 46.1 rebounds (6th). The Thunder is allowing 105.5 points per 100 possessions (3rd in the league) on 45.8% shooting from the field (14th) and 34.4% from beyond the 3-point line (9th).
The Rockets are scoring 114.7 points per 100 possessions (3rd in the league) on 44.7% shooting from the field (25th) and 34.7% from beyond the arc (20th), making just 20.9 assists (29th) and grabbing 42.4 rebounds (26th). On the other side of the ball, they are conceding 112.5 points per 100 possessions (25th) on 47.5% shooting from the field (26th) and 33.8% from beyond the arc (2nd).
First, take Russell Westbrook to post his ninth straight triple-double. This is an epic chance, and I think Russ will have to take advantage. The Rockets’ defense is not an elite one, so he will drive the lane and find open teammates, while I’m sure he will grab at least ten boards.
We have seen two different scenarios in the previous two H2H meetings of the season between OKC and Houston. The first one at Oklahoma was a proper low-scoring affair (98-80), while the second saw 222 points in the total which is also far away from the line on this one. Still, both teams have been efficient lately. Houston is averaging 121.6 points per contest over its last five games overall, while Oklahoma City is posting 124.4 points over its previous five outings. Another tricky factor is the pace, and the Rockets are recording just 97.6 possessions per 48 minutes (27th in the league), while the Thunder is averaging 103.4 possessions per 48 minutes (2nd in the league). The chalk has been set sky-high, so I’m taking the under.
When it comes to the side bet, I think the Rockets will win tonight, but I’d rather try to get some greater wages with any team by 6-10 points which should be around +230 odds. This clash could easily go either way, as both rivals are playing in a good form, and a home-court advantage could be an important factor. The Rockets are 10-1 straight up and 7-4 ATS in their previous 11 home meetings with the Thunder.