OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER (47-36)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (56-27)
Tip-off: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -8, Total: 223
Can Russell Westbrook and the Thunder rebound in Game 2 on Wednesday?
The Houston Rockets ran the Oklahoma City Thunder out of the Toyota Center on Sunday night, winning 118-87 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the two teams (HOU +7.5, Under 228). After setting an NBA record with 40.3 three-point attempts per game in the regular season, the Rockets didn’t actually see much an advantage on the perimeter, as they went 10-for-33 from deep and OKC shot 9-for-29. Similarly, they were 18-of-26 from three line while the Thunder were 18-of-23. The difference came on two-point field goals, where Houston shot 35-of-58 (60.3%) while Oklahoma City shot 21-of-52 (40.4%). The Rockets outrebounded OKC 62 to 48, and forced 15 turnovers while only committing 11. The Thunder led by two after the first quarter and only trailed by five points at halftime, but Houston won the second half by a 59-33 margin to make it a laugher in the end. Over the last five seasons, underdogs of 3.5 to 9.5 points revenging a road blowout loss of at least 20 points are 5-32 ATS against an opponent coming off a home win in which they scored at least 110 points. In the same timeframe, games involving a team with a record between .510 and .600 that have gone Under the total by at least 36 combined points over their last five games (OKC) are 101-57 Under against totals of at least 200. SF Sam Dekker remains out indefinitely for Houston.
Those who are viewing this series as a proxy battle for the regular season MVP award certainly wouldn’t look favorably upon Oklahoma City PG Russell Westbrook’s (31.6 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 10.4 APG, 1.6 SPG) performance in Game 1. His standard line of 22 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists looks okay, until you consider he shot 6-of-23 from the field and committed an egregious nine turnovers, the most he has had in a game since February. He played only 13 minutes in the blowout second half, and yet still finished with a game-worst -25 +/-. On the bright side, maybe he’ll feel extra well rested for Wednesday’s contest. The way this Oklahoma City team works, it is rarely going to win when he plays poorly, no matter who else steps up. That said, it certainly didn’t help things that SG Victor Oladipo (15.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG), the team’s second-leading scorer, shot 1-of-12 from the field en route to a measly six points. And C Steven Adams (11.3 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG), while not a strong offensive player, could certainly stand to score more than the six than he had in Game 1. SF Andre Roberson (6.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.2 SPG) sadly saw his career-best 18 points wasted in the loss, and he also put up seven rebounds, three blocks and two steals. If the defensive specialist can continue to score in double-digits, the Thunder ought to benefit. C Enes Kanter (14.3 PPG, 6.7 RPG) was exposed even more than usual on defense, and he could see even less playing time than usual going forward.
So, about that MVP battle: Rockets SG James Harden (29.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.5 SPG) looked pretty damn good in Game 1. Harden scored 37 on 13-of-28 shooting, getting eight at the free throw line and also tossing in seven rebounds, nine assists and three steals, and only turning the ball over twice. In four head-to-head meetings this regular season, Westbrook outscored Harden in all of them and averaged 36.3 PPG, while Harden averaged 20.5 PPG. Those numbers were reversed almost exactly on Sunday, and only having played 34 minutes should help him be fresh for Game 2. One could make an argument, though, that he wasn’t even the Rockets’ best player in G1. PG Patrick Beverley (9.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.2 APG, 1.5 SPG) scored 21 points and snagged 10 rebounds, and he held Westbrook to eight points on 3-of-9 shooting while guarding him. That two-way dominance, plus the ability to get double-digit rebounds from a guard position, makes him an especially valuable commodity in a series against OKC. The usual suspects from three-point land weren’t especially on point in Game 1, as PF Ryan Anderson (13.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG), SG Eric Gordon (16.2 PPG) and SG Lou Williams (14.9 PPG in 23 games with Houston) combined to go 2-for-12 from deep. Anderson managed only four points in a game-high 38 minutes, but he did grab a game-high 12 rebounds while out there. Centers Clint Capela (12.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.2 BPG) and Nene Hilario (9.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG) combined for 29 points on impeccable 14-for-17 shooting.