Houston at Oklahoma City
Time: 8:30 PM CST (TNT)
Spread: HOU -4
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Houston Rockets take to the road in the second half of a TNT NBA doubleheader. The Rockets visit the Oklahoma City Thunder as 4-point favorites with the over/under set at 226.5 total points, according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Thunder are surging, and the team has won seven of its last nine games. OKC is better than expected, but perhaps it was just underestimated, to begin with.
Veterans Danilo Gallinari and Dennis Schroder have come through, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is breaking out as the future leader of this team. Gilgeous-Alexander came courtesy of the Los Angeles Clippers, and he leads the team in minutes per game (35.4) and in scoring (19.8 per game).
Chris Paul is a steady influence at 16.3 points and 6.6 assists per game, which leads the Thunder. Steven Adams is averaging just shy of a double-double, and Nerlens Noel is functioning well as a post defender in the second unit. The Thunder probably has its work cut out for it to make the postseason, but it is not altogether out of the realm of possibility that this rebuilding team sneaks into the postseason.
With Schroder, Gallinari, and Paul, the Thunder have a veteran core mixed with the youth and the savvy defense of Adams to bring it together on the defensive end. OKC averages 108.8 points per game and limits its opponents to 107.5. In the Thunders’ most recent loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, it got 24 points and 15 rebounds out of Steven Adams. He looked better than Sixers cornerstone Joel Embiid, and Adams has the potential to do that as a player whose talents are not all translatable into statistics.
With Westbrook gone the thought was that he would be a big-time rebounder, but he seems to still be adjusting to the notion that he can grab them at will without Russ’ concerns of getting triple-doubles. Few expected the Thunder to improve after shedding a triple-double monster like Westbrook, but the balance and overall team play has made the Thunder into a formidable playoff contender.
The Houston Rockets have won eight of its last 11 overall to arrive at 25-11 and the No. 4 spot in the West thus far. It is 13-4 at the Toyota Center where it hosts tonight’s game.
Superstar guard James Harden is averaging a silly 38.2 points per game on the season with 7.5 assists to his credit as well. He is connecting on 38 percent of his threes and 46 percent of his field goals while turning it over an “almost excusable” 4.7 times per game. It is excusable simply because Harden produces so much that it is a mere corollary of the ball being in his hands most of the time.
Westbrook has fared well as a Rocket, though. He is shooting 43 percent from the floor while posting per-game averages of 24.2 points, 8 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.9 blocks/steals in 35 minutes a night. The Rockets thus far appear to have great chemistry, which was something that was both developed quickly and unexpected by many naysayers and pundits who mostly felt that Harden and Westbrook would be unable to share the ball well together. Due to the fact that both rely on having the ball in their hands to create offense, it remains to be seen how long and how well this pairing of Westbrook and Harden works.
The pair once was together in OKC, but neither is used to the role they respectively played during that time. Westbrook has averaged eight assists per game over the last two, and his minutes seem to be locked in at 33 to 35 per game, which should take some of the load off of it, in the name of the ever-present “load management.”
The Rockets have also got more offense out of center Clint Capela this season. He is averaging 13.9 points, 14.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks/steals per game. PJ Tucker has seen his role offensively increase, and he is taking advantage, averaging 8.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Eric Gordon has seen his role change with Westbrook aboard, and he is not doing as much as he had in the past two seasons, either.
But then again, this is a Houston team that averages 119.4 points per game, so perhaps asking for more offense from any player at this point resembles nothing but greed.