The Oklahoma City Thunder (22-6, 12-5 away) bring their NBA-leading road record into a tough match-up with the Houston Rockets (16-13) tonight, in what should be a high-scoring, exciting affair for fans of basketball and online sportsbook betting alike.
Winners of their last two games in dominant fashion, the OKC Thunder will have to play in back-to-back games tonight against a Houston team that is tasked with slowing down one of the league’s best scoring offenses, led by Kevin Durant (26.8 points, 8.1 rebounds/game) and Russell Westbrook (22.6 points, 5.5. assists/game). While the Thunder aren’t that deep of a team scoring-wise, and by indication of their low assist total (18.1/game, 27th in the NBA) don’t appear to be relatively good at distributing the ball around the offense, what they are very, very good at is creating open shots for their top shooters, and they see a lot of those shots falling on a consistent basis. The Thunder’s shooting percentage stands 3rd in the NBA at %47.5, led by Kevin Durant’s outstanding %50.7 efforts, and combined with a strong rebounding presence in the form of Durant, Serge Ibaka (7.3 rebounds/game) and Kendrick Perkins (5.6 rebounds/game), the Thunder get plenty of first and second looks which for a team that shoots as well as they do translates into a lot of points. Their form is also consistent both at home, where they have a 7-game winning streak, and on the road, where they perform better than any other team in the NBA. Coming into this match-up against Houston, a team the Thunder have beaten four straight times, once again the Thunder will look to maintain their high shooting percentage and look towards their stars to generate enough points to get past a Houston Rockets team that likes to run, and scores well on their home court.
Houston relies on a much more balanced offense than the Thunder do, as is indicated by the fact that 9 players on their roster are averaging better than 6.9 points per game, and for them to be successful in this home match-up, they’ll need to have plenty of bench scoring combined with a stand-out performance by one or two of their starters. Leading scorer Kevin Martin (17.7 points) is a key figure for the Rockets to have any chance at winning against the best road team in the league, as his recent performances have left much to be desired coming into tonight’s contest. Held to no points in the 10-point loss to Memphis last night, Martin has thus failed to reach double digits in scoring in 5 of his last 6 games, averaging just 7.7 points during that stretch. Against a Thunder defense that is relying on a bend-but-don’t break formula for success (allowing 96.2 points/game), it’s going to take all the points Houston can muster this evening, and getting Houston’s leading scorer active on the scoreboard from the get-go is crucial. Aside from Martin shooting better, who is fortunately averaging a solid 22.8 points at home, Houston needs big games from their big men including Luis Scola (15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds) and leading rebounder Samuel Dalembert (7.6 points, 7.8 rebounds) against a productive rebounding group in OKC. The Rockets must also continue to be strong on the offensive glass at home (4th in the league at 13.8 offensive boards,) and win the battle in the paint to control any loose balls that could turn into second chances for a hot-shooting Oklahoma City team. As the top home team in total rebounds (46.5/game), it’s essential that Houston live up to those statistics this evening against the 2nd best road rebounding team in the league.
Where the Rockets could also find success is in the turnover margin, against a Thunder team that at times can be careless with the basketball. OKC is issuing 15.9 turnovers per game, which while usually being offset by high scoring, could be an issue against a Houston team that can also score well at home. The Rockets have a number of capable players who excel in basketball thievery, with Kyle Lowry 5th in the NBA at 2.1 steals per game, and Chandler Parsons adding 1.25 steals, so generating as many forced turnovers as possible could be a big factor this evening for the Rockets. With both teams very close in free-throw shooting percentage (%79.1 for OKC, 1st in the NBA, %78.8 for Houston, T-2nd), 3-pt shooting (%34.8 to %34.4) and rebounding coming into tonight’s match-up, it’s going to be the little details that make the difference in the bottom line. Houston must find a way to generate more possessions via turnovers and solid rebounding, Oklahoma City must protect the ball, gain second chances on offense, and limit the ability of one or two out of the Rockets’ top producers including Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry.
Betting Lines for Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets at TopBet Sportsbook
With both teams heading into tonight’s match-up playing back-to-back games, and Houston coming home off a tough 6-game road trip off two straight losses, the odds on favorite on the money line for tonight’s game is the Oklahoma City Thunder at -175 odds to pick up their third consecutive victory. Houston however could be a good pick for underdog backers tonight, getting +155 odds at home, where they’ve been able to generate plenty of scoring en route to a 10-3 record. The safe play however for Rockets pickers may indeed be against the spread, where Houston is a 4 point underdog (-110 odds). With OKC having already swept a home-and-home series against the Rockets, but only prevailing by 3 points in the last meeting at Houston on January 7th, we can likely expect the home side to be fixated on keeping good pace with the Thunder, and making this game interesting down to the final minutes. Lastly for the main betting lines at TopBet Sportsbook, check the over/under which stands at 202 points (-110 odds either way). That mark is perhaps a little high, and thus worthy of the under bet, considering the 193 points put up in the last meeting between these two a month ago, and the fact that both teams are playing on back-to-back nights after traveling.
Our Pick to Win:
While I fully expect this to be a high-scoring, exciting affair, the recent form and direction of the two teams heading into tonight’s game, combined with the way the two teams’ top players have been performing as of late, has me siding with Oklahoma City to edge out a win on the road this evening. While Houston could find itself getting back into the game late if OKC fails to protect the ball and Houston wins the battle of the boards, I expect the Thunder’s Kevin Durant to be the key factor in the game tonight, tearing up the Houston defense from the perimeter and in the lanes, pushing the bottom line in favor of Oklahoma City. That said, this game should be a close one, as Houston’s depth of scoring should find them in contention late into the contest, but Oklahoma should also be in the lead the majority of the game, and finish off a winning effort with superior team shooting. Oklahoma City wins a close one 97-95 to keep them on top of the league with the best winning percentage thus far.