- The Thunder are 1.5-point favorites over the higher-seeded Rockets on Tuesday
- Houston will be without Russell Westbrook for at least Game 1 of the series
- Read below for analysis and predictions for this first round matchup
There isn’t an NBA playoff series in the first round with more personal stakes than the matchup between Oklahoma City and Houston. James Harden and co. are the higher seeded squad, but the Thunder vs Rockets odds give OKC the slight edge in the opening game.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets Game 1 Odds
|Team||Spread||Moneyline||Total at DraftKings|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||-1.5 (-115)||-126||O 224.5 (-110)|
|Houston Rockets||+1.5 (-105)||+108||U 224.5 (-110)|
Odds taken Aug. 17th
Rockets Without Russell
As Houston prepares for this matchup, they’ll be without point guard Russell Westbrook for the start of the series. Westbrook suffered a quad injury during the third of Houston’s eight seeding games, and despite getting some playing time since then, namely 28 minutes against San Antonio, it’s been an injury that has lingered enough to make the Rockets wary of how they use Westbrook.
In missing the guard, Houston must replace 27.2 points, 7 assists, and 7.9 rebounds per game. Harden has the ability to help make up for that point total, but for this small-ball team, Russell’s aggression inside and on the boards will be sorely missed.
Plethora of Point Guards in OKC
While Houston is facing this series without Westbrook, the Thunder will have a platoon of point guards to throw at the Rockets. The best of those is former Rocket Chris Paul, now considered an MVP candidate by some in his first year in OKC. Not only has Paul posted 17.6 points, 6.7 assists, 5 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, but he’s also served as a mentor to second-year guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
The young guard has improved significantly in his second year, and combined with Paul’s mentorship, he’s seen his points per game raise by 8.2 and his rebounds per game raise by 3.1.
The stats for point guards in OKC don’t necessarily jump off the page, but that’s because there’s a third key player at the position. Dennis Schroeder has been productive for the Thunder as well, posting 18.9 points, 4 assists, and 3.6 rebounds per game.
What’s the Best Bet?
With the absence of Westbrook, as well as a size disadvantage for Houston in this matchup, siding with the Thunder is the way to go here. Billy Donovan’s team has three tremendous guards at a position where Houston will have to play guys like Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore significant minutes, and inside, Houston doesn’t have a player that can counter Steven Adams. PJ Tucker has been the de facto “5” for the Rockets, but he’s at a 6-inch height disadvantage in this series.
The way Houston has made up for its lack of size has been by turning opponents over. Against the Thunder, that will be tough to do. The aforementioned point guards are reliable players, and they’ve led the Thunder to being the sixth-best team in the league at just 13.7 turnovers per game.
The Rockets are the league’s fifth-best team at forcing turnovers, but with Westbrook out, as well as Danuel House listed as probable, the shorthanded Rockets will likely fall behind this series in Game 1.
The Pick: OKC -1.5 (-115)