NBA Picks: Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Game #3

2013 NBA Playoffs – Western Conference Quarterfinals Game #3
#1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs #8 Houston Rockets
Thunder Lead Best of Seven Series 2-0
Saturday, April 27, 2013, 9:30 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Toyota Center – Houston, Texas
Opening Line: Oklahoma City -3 1/2
Current Line: Pick
Opening Total: 211 1/2
Current Total: 205 1/2
Opening Money Line: Thunder -140 / Rockets +120
Current Money Line: Thunder -110 / Rockets -110

Kevin Durant and the Thunder will be without Russell Westbrook for the foreseeable future. The Thunder travel to Houston for game #3 Saturday.
Kevin Durant and the Thunder will be without Russell Westbrook for the foreseeable future. The Thunder travel to Houston for game #3 Saturday.

While the Oklahoma City Thunder lead their Western Conference quarterfinal series 2-0 against the Houston Rockets as the series shifts to Houston for games 3 and 4, the Thunder were dealt a devastating blow. All-star point guard Russell Westbrook will be out indefinitely to undergo surgery for a torn meniscus. Full recovery usually takes about a month, but Lakers’ forward Metta World Peace underwent the same surgery in late March and returned two weeks later before the end of the regular season. Westbrook is younger than World Peace and Westbrook has never missed a game in his career. Westbrook suffered the injury in game 2 of the series against the Rockets. He was taking the ball up court in the first half, when he banged his knee against Rockets’ guard Patrick Beverly’s hip. Westbrook would play the entire second half in the Thunder’s 105-102 win.

The Thunder were up by 15 in the fourth quarter but Houston would come back to take a 4 point lead with 3:27 to go on a 21-2 run. The Thunder regained the lead for good on a Kevin Durant 3 pointer with 2:28 to go. Durant and Westbrook each scored 29 points in the win. It was the fourth victory in five games against the Rockets this season, but the first win under a 22 point margin. Oklahoma City crushed Houston 120-91 in game #1 of the series.

Oklahoma City is coached by Scott Brooks. The Thunder are 50-32-2 ATS and the total is 37-45-2 this season. Oklahoma City is outscoring teams 106-97 this season. The Thunder are #3 in scoring and #9 in points allowed. OKC is shooting 48.1% from the field and 37.7% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #3 in both categories. Oklahoma City leads the league in free throw shooting at 82.8%. The Thunder average 43.6 rebounds per game and give up 40.7 per game. They are #6 in both rebounding and rebounds allowed. OKC opponents are shooting 42.5% from the field and 34.6% from 3 point range. The Thunder are #2 in opponents’ field goal percentage, and #6 in three point defense. Oklahoma City averages 21.4 assists, 8.3 steals, 7.6 blocks, and 14.6 turnovers per game.

Forward Kevin Durant averages 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. Durant lost the scoring title to Knicks’ forward Carmelo Anthony by six tenths of a point. Guard Russell Westbrook averages 23.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Guard Kevin Martin averages 14 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. Martin was acquired in the James Harden trade. Forward Serge Ibaka averages 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Guard Thabo Sefolosha averages 7.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Nick Collison, Ronnie Brewer, Kendrick Perkins, Reggie Jackson and Hasheem Thabeet  make up the rest of the rotation. The Thunder signed veteran point guard Derek Fisher late in the regular season for the playoff run.

Houston is coached by Kevin McHale. Houston is 42-41-1 ATS and the total is 42-42 this season.  The Rockets are outscoring teams 106-103 this season. The Rockets are second in the league in scoring but are #28 in points allowed. The Rockets are shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.6% from 3 point range. Houston is #9 in the league in both categories. The Rockets make 75.4% of their free throws. Houston averages 43.4 rebounds and gives up 41.6 per game. The Rockets are in the top 11 in both categories. Houston opponents  are shooting 45.4% from the field and 36.7% from 3 point range. The Rockets average 23.2 assists, 8.3 steals, 4.4 blocks, and 15.8 turnovers per game.

Guard James Harden averages 25.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.8 assists, and 1.8 steals per game. Harden finished 5th in the league in scoring, behind Carmelo Anthony, Durant, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James. Small forward Chandler Parsons averages 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1 steal a game. Point guard Jeremy Lin averages 13.4 points, 3 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He is questionable with a chest injury. Shooting guard Carlos Delfino averages 10.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal a game. Center Omer Asik averages 10.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. Francisco Garcia, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith, Thomas Robinson, Beverly and Terrance Jones make up the rest of the rotation.

Oklahoma City is 7-0 ATS in road games against teams with winning home records, 5-0 in road games, 7-1 in Saturday games, 4-1 against Southwest Division teams, 6-2 against teams with winning records, 23-8-1 after allowing 100 points or more, 44-20-3 against Western Conference teams, 43-21-1 after failing to cover, and 3-8 when the opponent allows 100 points or more.

Houston is 4-1 ATS against teams with winning roads records, 7-15-1 against Northwest Division teams, 2-5 against teams with winning records, 2-6 overall, and against Western Conference teams, 2-8 after a cover, 1-5 on two days rest, and 0-5 after scoring 100 points or more. The home team is 11-4 ATS in the last 15 in this series. The Rockets are 6-2 ATS at home in the last 8 against the Thunder.

Without Westbrook, it isn’t clear who will pick up the scoring slack other than Durant. Honestly, though Durant is widely regarded as a top 5 player in the league, and perhaps even the second best behind LeBron James. You will get arguments from Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant fans about whether either of those players are better than Durant. My point is, Durant should be able to put this team on back and beat the #8 seed  two times in five games. Losing Westbrook will be a bigger issue in the next round against the Los Angeles Clippers or Memphis Grizzlies. I like the Thunder to win on an epic performance from Durant.

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