Houston Rockets (-6, 193 o/u) at Oklahoma City Thunder
Tomorrow night, the Oklahoma City Thunder will host the Houston Rockets at the Chesapeake Energy Arena (7:00 p.m. Eastern). Houston has been impressive in the early going, posting a 7-1 record and trailing only the equally impressive Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference.
OKC, meanwhile, is doing its best to muddle through without Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and remain in playoff contention until their stars return.
With the addition of Chandler Parsons to an already potent offense, everyone expected Houston to put up a lot of points each night and, more often than not, win in a shootout. So far, that scenario has not played out, though. The Rockets are doing their part – averaging over 103 points per night – but their suffocating defense is limiting opponents to 92.1 points per game (second-best in the NBA), down from 103.1 last year.
The main reason for the defensive turnaround is the play of center Dwight Howard. Howard is averaging 11.3 rebounds per game (fifth in the league) and 2.14 blocks (fourth in the league). On offense, it’s the same old story for Houston (not a bad thing), as James Harden leads the team with 25.1 PPG. Howard is doing his part on offense, as well, averaging an even 20 per night.
Without the offense of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the lineup, the Thunder are struggling to score – as everyone expected. They are averaging just 92.4 points per game (fourth-worst in the league) and are getting very little production from their bench. However, after losing five of their first six to start the year, OKC has won two of its last three, including a win on the road in Boston on Wednesday.
Oklahoma City has won seven of the last ten games against Houston but the majority of those featured both Durant and Westbrook. Even with home-court advantage, the short-staffed Thunder will be hard-pressed to top the surging Rockets, who are currently six-point favorites.
(Photo credit: 2O (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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