The NBA playoffs have begun and will continue with another busy day on August 18. Four games will be up on the board throughout Tuesday. One of these games will be a highly anticipated matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets. These two teams will look to earn a nice Game 1 victory on Tuesday night. Tip off for this matchup will be at around 6:30 PM Eastern time.
Oklahoma City earned a record of 44-28 throughout this season, which has them in fifth place of the Western Conference. The Thunder went 4-4 throughout the seeding games, which had them leapfrog the Utah Jazz. Oklahoma City will look to get this series started off on the right foot with a huge win on Tuesday night.
The Rockets finished out the regular season with a record of 44-28 as well. This put Houston in fourth place of the Western Conference to set up this meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Rockets went 4-4 throughout their seeding games, losing three straight coming into this series. Houston will look to bounce back to secure a win in Game 1 of this series.
These two teams have plenty of history with each other, which should lead to an exciting and intense series in the first round. I expect both teams to come out quickly in Game 1 of this series to try and set the pace against each other. These two teams met up three times throughout the regular season, which will give both teams a good idea of what they are going up against.
The first game of the season series was hosted by Houston on October 28. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder both put up 22 points for the Thunder, but it was not enough. James Harden dropped 40 points, while Russell Westbrook put up 21 points, 12 rebounds and 9 assists. The Rockets dominated in the third to help finish with a 116-112 win at home.
The second game of the season series shifted to Oklahoma City on January 9. Russell Westbrook put up 34 points for the Rockets, but it was not enough. Danilo Gallinari dropped 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander put up 20 points. Chris Paul had another 18 points to help give the Thunder the win. Oklahoma City held Harden to 17 points as they ran away with a 113-92 win at home.
The most recent game of the season series shifted back to Houston on January 20. James Harden put up 29 points, while Russell Westbrook earned 32 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Chris Paul posted 28 points and Danilo Gallinari put up 25 points and 13 rebounds. Dennis Schroder dropped 23 points off the bench as the Thunder snuck out with a 112-107 win on the road.
Oklahoma City was able to go 2-1 throughout the season series despite losing the first game. The Thunder had two nice bounce back wins in the second and third game of the season series. Two of the three matchups in this season series were close up until the end. I expect this series to be filled with tight games as these two teams battle it out.
Field Goal Shooting
Oklahoma City had a strong field goal percentage throughout the regular season. The Thunder were able to make 46.8 percent of their shots from the field, which was eighth best in the NBA. Oklahoma City made 35.5 percent of their shots from deep, which was not great. The Thunder shot at a 52.9 percent rate inside the arc, which was top ten in the league.
The Rockets did not have a great field goal percentage this season. Houston made 45.1 percent of their shots from the field, which was bottom half in the NBA. The Rockets shot and made the most three pointers in the NBA this season, but made 34.5 percent of their shots from deep, which was not great. Houston made 55.7 percent of their shots in close, which was second best.
The Thunder had the better field goal shooting this season, but Houston takes and makes a lot of three point shots. Oklahoma City had the second best three point defense this season, which could make it really tough on the Rockets. Houston will look to make some shots inside early, to give them a chance to spread the floor in this series.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has had a great first season with the Thunder. He has averaged 19 points per game throughout the season. Dennis Schroder is averaging 19 points per game off the bench, while Danilo Gallinari has averaged 18.5 points per game. Chris Paul is averaging 17.5 points per game, while Steven Adams has averaged 11 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
James Harden has continued to lead Houston this season. Harden is averaging 34.5 points and 7.5 assists per game. Eric Gordon has averaged 14.5 points off the bench. Jeff Green has averaged 12 points per game, while Robert Covington is averaging 11.5 points. Ben McLemore is averaging 10 points per game to help round out the lineup.
These two teams have a nice spread of scoring throughout their lineup. The Rockets are missing a key player in Russell Westbrook, who is out with injury. Westbrook was averaging 27 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game throughout the season. Westbrook could make his return later in the series, so until then, the Thunder will look to take advantage of his absence.
These two teams have earned the same record throughout the regular season, which has them in the fourth and fifth spot of the Western Conference. Both teams went 4-4 throughout their seeding games, which continues to hint at a great series. The Thunder have a good chance to shut down Houston’s three point shooting though and with Westbrook out, Oklahoma City has a chance to take Game 1 of this series.
BetOnline has Oklahoma City listed as a -1 ½ against the spread in Game 1 of this series. The Thunder are slight favorites in this line, which seems right to me. Houston is without Russell Westbrook, which will hurt them in the lineup. Oklahoma City’s defense gives them an advantage in my mind, making them my pick for the night.