Oklahoma City at Houston
Time: 8 PM EST
Spread: OKC -2.5
Betting odds courtesy of Bovada
In the first of a TNT double header, the Oklahoma City Thunder travel to Houston to face the Rockets in what should be a shootout. NBA oddsmakers at Bovada have set the total at 210, a product of two offenses coming together that have no trouble scoring the ball. OKC is 2.5 point favorites, and Houston is coming off a loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, a game in which James Harden committed seven of 20 Rockets turnovers.
The Thunder have pulled to within a game of .500 at nearly the mid-point of the season. This mediocre record is a product of both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook having missed large chunks of the season. Despite that, the Thunder remained a strong defensive team and held opponents off the offensive glass.
This season has been a bit different for the Thunder. No longer is Kevin Durant the heavy scorer on the team, but having played just 14 games, he is still getting into the groove. It hasn’t mattered with the way point guard Russell Westbrook has played. The dynamic playmaker has averaged 26.2 points and 7.1 assists per game while coming up with 2.2 steals per contest. His PER is exceptionally high (29.6), exceeding even the ultra-efficient Durant.
Reggie Jackson has stepped up into a Bobby Jackson-like role for the Thunder and will be a perfect complement to Dion Waiters once he adjusts to life in OKC. Jackson is averaging 14.9 points per game while Waiters should contribute at least 10 once he acclimates himself to the offense.
The acquisition of Waiters infuses more young talent into a team already featuring a sharpshooting lottery pick in Jeremy Lamb. Steven Adams appears to be the perfect successor to Nick Collison as an energy big man off the bench capable of making a big impact in short minutes. Serge Ibaka is still a premier rim protector. With how closely grouped the West is, the only real consideration for OKC may be avoiding the 8th seed and a matchup against the red hot Golden State Warriors. All other opponents are entirely beatable for Scott Brooks’ team.
The Rockets meanwhile continue to steam along at a high pace. But the offense should not be indicative of a weak defense, despite the numbers for opponent scoring. The Rockets rank No. 3 in defensive rating, and feature great defenders at three of the five positions on the court (with James Harden and Donatas Motiejunas essentially reaping the rewards from those around them). Dwight Howard is as good a rim protector as any; Patrick Beverley is a pest and defensive stopper; and Trevor Ariza is one of the best wing defenders in the league.
With Ariza replacing Chandler Parsons, the Rockets have improved, rather than decline as the casual fan would have expected following an offseason which saw the Rockets strike out on Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony. Perhaps the big free agent will come for Houston, but if one doesn’t this team isn’t set up poorly with what GM Daryl Morey has done already.
The Thunder are 2.5 points favorites, but the Rockets will come out focused after being destroyed in Orando.
Oklahoma City: The Thunder are 0-4-1 ATS in last 5 vs teams with winning percentages above .600; 0-3-1 ATS in the last 4 vs teams with winning SU records; 0-3-1 ATS in the last 4 when opponent allows 100 points or more in previous game.
Houston: The UNDER is 8-0 in Rockets last 8 home games vs teams with losing road records; UNDER is 8-0 in last 8 home games vs teams with road winning percentage below .400; Rockets are 8-1 ATS in the last 9 games vs teams with losing SU records.
Head-to-head: UNDER Is 6-1 in last 7 meetings; Thunder are 5-1 ATS in last the 6 meetings.