Christmas Day NBA on ABC (4 of 5): Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder

Houston at Oklahoma City
Time: 7 PM (CT) ABC/ESPN
Spread: HOU -2
Total: 216.5

Odds c/o 5dimes

The Houston Rockets lead the Western Conference at 25-6 and will travel to Oklahoma City to Face Russell Westbrook and the Thunder in a Christmas Day matchup on ABC. The Rockets are 2-point favorites on the road where the team has won 12 of 13 games in the 2017-18 season. OKC is 12-4 at home, however, and is winners of its last four games.

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HOU

The Houston Rockets have basically went from very good to flat out deadly with the addition of a healthy Chris Paul, who has lost just a game as a Houston Rocket. Paul is averaging 17.1 points and 9.0 assists per game while posting the second-highest PER of any Rocket at 261. James Harden has been sensational, recording what could and should be an MVP campaign. Beard tallies 31.9 points, 5.1 rebounds and 9.0 assists pre game with a PER nearly double the league average at 30.6. Supplementing the antics of Paul and Harden has been 2-guard Eric Gordon, who is averaging 19.2 points per game while shooting 34.2 percent from three on 9.4 attempts per game.

Houston shoots 37 percent from three-point range as a team and averages 16 made threes per game. The Rockets average 115.3 points per game which ranks No. 2 in the NBA. Meanwhile, due to Clint Capela anchoring a strong defense, the Rockets surrender just 104 points per game and have the league’s second-best point differential at +10.7.

Many are now wondering if Houston might not have enough firepower —and defense— to hand the Golden State Warriors a loss in a seven-game series.

The addition of Paul seems to only have made the Rockets a tougher team on both ends of the court, and if Mike D’Antoni can keep his team defending at the level at which it is, a title certainly has to be in consideration. Houston still leads Golden State by 1.5 games in the standings, and the Rockets are 12-1 on the road this season (while the Warriors have lost three already away from home). There are just so many factors that lend us to calling the Rockets true contenders, and not “pretenders” as many have called just about any team coached by D’Antoni.

OKC

While Russell Westbrook continues to play amazing basketball, Carmelo Anthony is struggling to find his niche and role with his new team. Chances of demoting Anthony to a Sixth Man remain low, howsoever it might be the best thing that Billy Donovan could do to inject some life into the Thunders’ second unit. Anthony is averaging a career-low 17.3 points per game and attempting just 15.9 field goals per game.

Similarly, Paul George has reduced his load to 17 shots per game, but Westbrook maintains his 20.8 field goals per game. The balance needs to be struck more, particularly since outside of that big Three, and Steven Adams, the Thunder get so little offense from the rest of its cast.

Indeed, a sheer lack of depth continually hurts the Thunder. Jerami Grant, Ray Felton, Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson are all fine players, but a team is in trouble when that quartet comprises its fifth through ninth best players. None of them are major scoring threats, and the Thunder still are not vastly utilizing Patrick Patterson, who looms as a potential source of mid-range shooting and rebounding. While the team does not likely regret losing Victor Oladipo, as well as he is playing in Indiana, maybe it should.

Beyond that, it is not likely George remains in OKC after this season, making this experimental rental all the more of a failure if the Thunder cannot manage to get more from George, and the rest of its team. The Thunder have been strong defensively, but with just three scorers and an active Adams, it is difficult to envision this team posing any legitimate threat to either Houston or Golden State.

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