The Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder face different challenges as they pursue playoff spots in the Western Conference. OKC are two-point favorite on the NBA betting lines on Sunday.
The Houston Rockets Can Win Because…
They are getting valuable contributions from role players right now. In Houston’s road win at Dallas on Thursday, the Rockets got the kinds of stat lines from their supporting cast which will put them in position to get the number two seed in the West and then win a couple of playoff series. Trevor Ariza was 6 of 12 from the field and 3 of 7 from three-point range. He scored 19 points and provided an effective go-to outlet for the Rockets in that game. Josh Smith did not shoot well, but he did come down with 12 rebounds, five of them on offense, plus three assists and two steals. Corey Brewer was 4 of 8 from the field and scored 14 points thanks to six made free throws. Brewer was a plus-13 in his 24 minutes, and Smith was a plus-20 in his 32 minutes on the court. Houston will live with these performances, since it hasn’t been sure what it’s going to get from its role players. The Rockets know that James Harden is going to be there, so if Ariza, Smith and Brewer can all be this effective, Houston should be in very good shape – not just in general, but for this game.
Oklahoma City is showing signs of strain. The Thunder appeared to be pulling away from the New Orleans Pelicans in the race for the final playoff spot, but that margin has been reduced to just half a game. Oklahoma City needs this game, but the Thunder – who hit just 4 of 17 three-point shots in a Friday loss to Memphis – were nowhere near good enough to beat a quality team. Houston is just as good as Memphis, sitting near the Grizzlies in the standings. Oklahoma City does not look ready to win this game.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Can Win Because…
The NBA odds would suggest that the they are going to bounce back in this game. Why say this? It’s not complicated: Russell Westbrook, by all accounts a truly elite player, is not going to have two straight awful games. He did have an awful game on Friday against Memphis.
It was just one of those nights for Westbrook. He was 5 of 20 from the field. He committed as many turnovers as the number of shots he made. He scored just 10 points from field goals and eight from foul shots, finishing with 18 points. He was as inefficient as he’s been all season long. Some might raise concerns with Westbrook, but this is a game of imperfection, especially when games are rolled out night after night with numbing continuity. Westbrook is going to be better in this game. You would much rather bet that he’ll score 30 and hand out 10 assists instead of thinking that he’ll once again hit 5 of 20 shots (shooting 25 percent from the field). If Westbrook’s numbers improve to a large degree, and they should, the Thunder will have a very good chance here.
The Thunder know they have to start winning again in order to hold off New Orleans in the West. Westbrook is going to score at least 30 points. OKC will use the inside game of Enes Kanter (24 points and 17 rebounds against Memphis on Friday) to balance out Westbrook’s perimeter game and beat Houston. Take the Thunder with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Oklahoma City -1.5 at Pinnacle