Rockets at Thunder Picks and NBA Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 4/18/2013
Things could not have gone better on Wednesday in the final night of the 2012-13 NBA regular season if you are an NBA fan. No offense to the Utah Jazz, but no one outside that state likely wanted to see them in the postseason ahead of the L.A. Lakers (TV executives are giddy). When Utah was beaten soundly at Memphis in an early Wednesday tip, the Lakers knew they were in the playoffs when their home game with Houston began. However, both teams still had plenty of motivation: avoid the No. 8 seed and a likely quick out against the No. 1 and Western Conference favored Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Rockets took L.A. to overtime -- thanks to a fluke Chandler Parsons three-pointer at the regulation buzzer -- but the Lakers prevailed 99-95 thanks to Pau Gasol's 17 points, 20 rebounds and 11 assists. That moved the Lakers up to No. 7 and a much better matchup with aging and beaten-up San Antonio, even with L.A. not having Kobe Bryant. It also dropped Houston into a matchup with the Thunder, a great story line after OKC traded James Harden to the Rockets on the eve of the season. Plus, we get Nuggets-Warriors, which should be an entertaining high-scoring series, and Clippers-Grizzlies, a rematch of a seven-game opening round Clipper win from last year. The West's opening round looks way better than the East's.
Game 1 between the Rockets and Thunder is the finale of all the series openers on Sunday night and tips at 9:30 Eastern on TNT.
Rockets at Thunder Betting Story Lines
Because OKC already had locked up Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka to long-term contracts, it asked Harden, the 2011-12 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, to take a hometown discount because the Thunder can't spend like a big-market team. Harden said “no” and was shipped off to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two first-round picks. It appears to be a deal that helped both teams.
Houston is in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, finished No. 2 in the NBA in scoring and Harden became a franchise player, finishing No. 5 in the league in scoring at 25.9. Oklahoma City still was No. 3 in the NBA in scoring as Martin slid into the Sixth Man role, won 60 games and claimed the West's top seed for the first time since the move from Seattle. Plus, the Thunder have a nice young, cheap prospect in Lamb and those two first-rounders. One of those is Toronto's this year as long as the Raptors don't move up into the Top 3 in the draft lottery.
They say that in the playoffs the games slow down. Defense is more emphasized and you see a lot more half-court offense than the regular season. It will be interesting to see if that axiom comes true between these two. The Thunder won two of the three regular-season games and never scored less than 119 points. The Rockets only broke 100 in the most recent meeting, a 122-119 win in Houston on Feb. 20. Harden had a career-high 46 points in that one. He became only the third player in the past 30 years to score at least 45 points in a game against a team he played for the previous season. The Rockets still had no right winning, trailing by 14 with seven minutes left. Durant had a season-low 16 points. Harden averaged 21 points in the first two meetings -- both Thunder blowout wins -- and shot just 9-for-33 from the field.
Maybe the Thunder should be glad that Durant's streak of scoring titles ended at three this year. No team has won an NBA championship with a player who has won that year's scoring title in 13 years (Shaquille O'Neal's Lakers). Durant averaged 26.3 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists against Houston this year. Westbrook averaged 23.3/7.7/8.3.
Rockets at Thunder NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, OKC opened as a 10.5-point favorite with the total at 212.5. For the series, the Thunder are -2100 and the Rockets +1300. Houston was 41-40-1 ATS this season (17-23-1 on road) and 41-41 “over/under” (21-20 on road). Oklahoma City was 49-31-2 ATS (27-14 at home) 37-43-2 O/U (21-19-1 at home).
The Rockets are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 road games. Houston is 1-4 ATS in his past five vs. a team with a winning record. The Thunder are 5-1 ATS in their past six vs. teams with a winning record. The Thunder have covered eight of their past 10 on at least three days of rest. The over is 4-0 in Houston's past four against teams with a winning record. The under is 9-1-2 in OKC's past 12 vs. the West. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings. The Rockets are 1-5 ATS in the past six in OKC.
Rockets at Thunder Picks and Betting Predictions
Houston hasn't looked good on the road of late, dropping three straight. Losing at Denver and the Lakers is fine, but Monday's 119-112 defeat at Phoenix just isn't acceptable for how bad the Suns are. Neither is allowing 119 points to that team. Harden has gone cold the past two games, shooting 13-for-43 from the field and 4-for-20 from three-point range. Oklahoma City lost its regular-season finale Wednesday night at home to Milwaukee, but it meant nothing. Durant sat and Westbrook barely played. Prior to that, OKC had won four straight, each by at least nine points.
The Rockets are the youngest, least-experienced playoff team among the 16 left standing. They are also by far the worst defensively in allowing 102.5 points per game. I think Rockets management would be happy just extending this to six games and build some momentum toward next season. Houston will have tons of salary cap room this summer and might be able to lure a star -- you listening, Dwight Howard? -- to play alongside Harden. I could see Houston starting to follow the Thunder's pattern in advancing one round farther in the playoffs each season.
But in the now, take the Thunder -- I might wait to see if this drops to 9.5 as it is at 10 at some books -- and the over in Game 1. OKC in five games in the series.
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