NBA Expert Picks: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder

Houston Rockets AT Oklahoma City Thunder
December 15th, 2010 at 8:00 PM EST
Opening Point Spread:  Oklahoma City -8
Current Point Spread:  Oklahoma City -8
Opening Total: 209
Current Total: 209
Moneyline:  Oklahoma City -370 / Houston +322

Scola is having a career year and should have another big night tonight, but will it be enough?

Both teams enter tonight’s game with winning streaks.  The Thunder have won three consecutive games to the woeful teams of Cleveland, Minnesota, and Milwaukee. They have won seven of their last ten, too.  In their last game against Cleveland, they held the Cavs to but 32 second half points.

The Rockets come off a two game winning streak with wins over Sacramento and Cleveland.  They have won 6 of their past 10, but still sit near the bottom of the Western Conference with a 10-14 overall record.  Despite this, they have a positive point differential of +0.5 as they score 105.4, while giving up 104.9.  Oklahoma City has a +1.3 point differential, scoring 103.2 and giving up 101.9.

The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Houston’s past 10 games and the total has gone UNDER in 4 of Oklahoma City’s past 5 games.  However, counteracting this is the fact that the total has gone OVER in 7 of Oklahoma City’s past 9 games at home.  Houston has lost 5 of their last 7 on the road and is 3-6 ATS on the road in Oklahoma City.  Oklahoma City has lost 14 of their past 16 games in Houston, but according to NBA oddsmakers, this will change tonight, as they are 8 point favorites.

Houston’s Yao Ming reinjured his foot and has been out for an extended period of time.  There is no time table for his return.  Starting point guard Aaron Brooks has been injured, too, but Kyle Lowry has stepped up and played great basketball in his absense.  Oklahoma is without starting center Nenad Krstic, but have scarcely missed his absense as they are on the verge of tying for first in their division with a win tonight.  Serge Ibaka has been great in Krstic’s absense and has likely taken his starting postion from him even when he returns.

Some key matchups for tonight’s game:

Luis Scola vs Jeff Green

Scola is having by far the best year of his 4 year tenure in the NBA.  He is averaging 20.3 points per game and 9.0 boards per night.  Part of this may be attributed to his dominant performance in the FIBA World Championships this summer, where he led the tournament in scoring, leading to increased confidence that has carried over into this season.  Jeff Green, only 6’8″, and a bit of a tweener, will have his hands full with Scola, who stands 2″ taller and has the ability to take Green out on the perimeter or bang inside.  Green will attempt to use his speed and versatility to expose Scola off the dribble.  Green is also having a career year with 17.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game.  This matchup will be key for both teams.

Shane Battier vs Kevin Durant

Battier has rightfully been deemed one of the best defensive players of the past decade and will have his chance to slow down the NBA’s leading scorer in Kevin Durant.  Durant did not play his best basketball coming out of the gate this season, but has since turned it on and has scored 25 or more in all five of his last games.  Last game against Houston, though, Battier frustrated Durant and held him to a mere 18 points.  While Battier won’t pose much of a problem on offense for Durant, he will wreck havoc on the defensive end and keep Durant from getting many quality open shots.

These matchups will help determine the outcome of the game, but also don’t forget about Russell Westbrook who has emerged to be one of the game’s top point guards.  He’ll use his large frame and speed to batter the much smaller Kyle Lowry.  Houston is a much better team than their record would indicate and tonight’s game and accoring to NBA Oddsmakers, this should be a good one.

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