Houston (25-11) almost got caught looking ahead night in Atlanta. The Rockets were outscored 30-23 in the 4th quarter but held on to beat the Hawks 122-115. However, Houston did not cover the 7.5-point spread. The second game of the back-to-back will be a reunion for Russell Westbrook and even James Harden to an extent, however, it will be Westbrook’s first trip back to Oklahoma City after spending 11 seasons with the Thunder. The Rockets lead the NBA in scoring (119.4 per game) and fourth in rebounding (47.4 per game). Houston is ranked 23rd in scoring defense (113.9 per game).
Oklahoma City (21-16) has posted the best ATS record in the league through their first 37 games, going 25-12-2 against the number. Chris Paul has emerged as a legitimate All-Star and scored 28 points, with 20 coming in the second half and overtime, in Tuesday’s win over the Nets. It’s Paul’s highest-scoring performance since a 30-point game on December 16 against the Bulls. Steven Adams also collected a season-high 18 rebounds in the victory over Brooklyn. Adams is averaging 16.3 board over his last three games. Oklahoma City is ranked ninth in field-goal percentage (46.4%) but 25th in 3-point shooting (34.1%).
ESPN’s FPI gives Houston a 51.2% chance of winning this game. We break down the line and offer our best bets and analysis for Thursday’s matchup between the Rockets and Thunder.
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Rockets vs. Thunder Game Details
Date: Thursday, January 9
Time: 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
TV: AT&T SportsNet Southwest, TSN5
Spread: Rockets -2
- SG Gerald Green (foot) out
- C Nene (hip) questionable
- C Nerlens Noel (ankle) out
- PF Danilo Gallinari (calf) out
- PG Andre Roberson (knee) questionable
- Rockets are 25-11 SU and 18-18 ATS this season
- Thunder are 21-16 SU and 25-12-2 ATS this season
- Under 20-16 in Rockets games this season
- Under is 21-16 in Thunder games this season
Analysis & Pick
I am fascinated by this game, as James Harden and Russell Westbrook return to where it all started. Westbrook’s return is much more impactful in this matchup, as it will be his first game back at his old stomping grounds, but I also expect James Harden to be fully up for this game. Harden has already torched his former team this year, dropping 40 points in a 116-112 home victory over the Thunder back in October. Harden had another huge game on Wednesday with 41 points, 10 boards, and 10 assists, recording his 15th career 40-point triple-double, second all-time behind Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, who has 22.
Clint Capela and Stephen Adams should be an interesting matchup to watch in the paint. Capela had 22 points and 22 rebounds in the victory over Atlanta, notching his fourth 20-20 performance of the season. The Rockets are the much better rebounding team, which leads me to believe they will neutralize Adams’ size in this game. Overall, I think Houston is the better team top-to-bottom and some volatile play of late, will get the job done in an emotional return for Westbrook and Harden.
PICK: Rockets -2.5
Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith