OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (55-19)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (49-25)
Tip-off: Friday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -2.5, Total: 211
The surging Thunder look to build on Thursday's huge win over San Antonio when they visit the struggling Rockets on Friday night.
Oklahoma City ended the Spurs' franchise record 19-game win streak with Thursday's 106-94 win, giving the club a 9-2 SU record (6-4-1 ATS) in its past 11 contests. But the Thunder will be a bit short-handed for this game with PG Russell Westbrook and C Kendrick Perkins both expected to rest instead of playing on back-to-back nights, and PF Nick Collison (head) questionable with a head injury. Houston is also hurting though, as star C Dwight Howard (ankle) is doubtful for this contest and PG Patrick Beverley remains out indefinitely with a knee injury. These two absences have led to three straight losses (SU and ATS), with the latest defeat coming Wednesday in Toronto by a 107-103 score. The Thunder have been a tough road team all season at 23-12 SU, but are a pedestrian 18-17 ATS away from home. The Rockets are a superb 29-8 SU at home this season with a strong 19-15 ATS mark, as they outscore visitors by 9.4 PPG. These clubs are wrapping up a season series that has been thoroughly dominated by Oklahoma City, which is 3-0 (SU and ATS) with wins by 31, 12 and 8 points. In the lone meeting at Toyota Center, the Thunder outshot their opponent 46% FG to 40% FG in an easy 104-92 victory. Although Oklahoma City holds the 11-5 SU edge (9-7 ATS) in this series over the past three seasons, the clubs are an even 4-4 ATS in Houston over this timeframe. Both teams have positive betting trends for Friday too, as the Thunder are 17-8 ATS (68%) versus good teams (3+ PPG margin) this season, but the Rockets are an astounding 18-3 ATS (86%) at home after failing to cover four or five of their previous six games under head coach Kevin McHale.
Can the Grizzlies keep their playoff hopes alive with a double-digit victory on Friday? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Zach is a stellar 72% ATS (13-5) since March 9, while StatFox Gary has remained hot with a 61% ATS mark (20-13) since Feb. 13. StatFox Dave has a strong 56% ATS (49-39-1) Best Bets record since Dec. 1, while StatFox Brian also remains profitable, going 53.1% ATS (26-23-1) since Jan. 25.
Oklahoma City is really tough to contain offensively, as the team scores 106.1 PPG (5th in NBA) on 47.3% FG (6th in league), 36.6% threes (13th in NBA) and 80.5% FT (2nd in league). Although the Thunder commit 15.2 turnovers per game (3rd-most in NBA), they make up for it on the defensive end with a hefty 6.1 BPG (2nd in NBA) and 8.4 SPG (9th in league). This helps the club limit opponents to 99.3 PPG (10th in league) on 43.3% FG (3rd in NBA) and 35.5% threes (12th in league). This Oklahoma City squad also leads the NBA in rebounding margin this season at +4.2 RPG. SF Kevin Durant (32.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.3 SPG) continues to be unstoppable, eclipsing 25 points in 39 straight games, where he's averaged 34.9 PPG (52% FG, 40% threes), 6.8 RPG and 6.2 APG. He's been the biggest reason his team is on the verge of sweeping the Rockets with a ridiculous 37.0 PPG (52% FG, 10-of-20 threes), 7.7 RPG and 5.3 APG in the three meetings. With PG Russell Westbrook (21.3 PPG, 6.9 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.9 SPG) sitting this game out, PG Reggie Jackson (13.3 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.9 RPG) will play most of the minutes at the point guard spot. Jackson has scored in double-figures for seven straight games, tallying 14.7 PPG (49% FG, 46% threes), 5.4 APG and 5.3 RPG during this stretch. He's also played well against Houston this season with 16.0 PPG (56% FG), 4.3 APG and 2.3 SPG in the three victories, and the absence of Patrick Beverley, a strong perimeter defender, should allow Jackson to have another huge performance. SF Serge Ibaka (15.0 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG) has also played well recently with 13.7 PPG (47% FG), 8.5 RPG and 3.0 BPG during his team's 9-2 surge. He has also had his way in the paint with the Rockets this season, pumping out 13.7 PPG (53% FG), 12.0 RPG and 3.7 BPG in the three victories. With Dwight Howard unlikely to play, Ibaka is a virtual lock to post a double-double on Friday. SF Caron Butler (9.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG) has been giving this team some great minutes recently with 11.6 PPG (46% threes) over his past five games, and could look to shoot more on Friday with the absence of Westbrook.
Houston remains one of the elite offensive teams in the NBA with 106.8 PPG (3rd in league) on 47.3% FG (5th in NBA), but the club makes a pedestrian 35.4% threes (17th in league) and a horrible 70.4% free throws (2nd-worst in NBA). Turnovers have also been a major problem (15.6 TOPG, 2nd-worst in league), but like their Friday opponent, the Rockets are also an elite shot-blocking team (5.6 BPG, 3rd in NBA) who always crash the boards hard (+3.7 RPG margin, 3rd in league). With C Dwight Howard (18.5 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG) unable to play, C Omer Asik (5.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG) will continue to man most of the minutes at center. He has done an outstanding job filling in with 11.0 PPG (59% FG) and 16.3 RPG during Howard's three-game absence. SG James Harden (25.1 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG) has made a more conscious effort to get into the lane without Howard, shooting at least a dozen free throws in three straight contests (37-of-41 FT), leading to 28.0 PPG, 5.7 APG and 4.7 RPG over this timeframe. Harden has not played very well offensively against his former team this season, scoring just 17.3 PPG on 37% FG (5-of-18 threes), but he does have 6.7 APG and 6.0 RPG in the three defeats. Another key to this game is SF Chandler Parsons (16.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 4.0 APG), who despite the three straight defeats, has produced 21.3 PPG (48% FG), 8.0 RPG, 3.0 APG and 1.3 SPG during the losing skid. His numbers have been solid versus the Thunder this season too, with 16.0 PPG (36% threes) and 4.0 RPG in the two games.