So far, the NBA playoffs have been a welcome distraction from the real world, providing fans at home with exciting games day after day. Thank you, Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA universe for making the Orlando bubble a success, despite all odds.
The OKC Thunder and Houston Rockets series has been no exception and things have heated up.
Houston looked like it was going to trample OKC, coming out with a 2-0 lead to start off the series. Then, Chris Paul & Co. turned things around with insane back-to-back wins, tying up the series.
They’ll face off for Game 5 Wednesday for the series lead. We’ll take a close look at how these teams have matched up and go over some basic stats. At the end, we’ll analyze the odds for this game and make a free pick for Game 5.
Rockets Eye Series Lead
The first two games felt like the beginning of a sweep. Led by James Harden, Houston looked more dynamic.
Without former MVP Russell Westbrook, the Rockets looked like they were going to outclass the Thunder despite finishing the season with identical records (both teams ended up 44-28).
Despite two straight losses to OKC, Houston has been playing excellent basketball. Their defeats were due to errors made in the fourth quarter and it looked like they ran out of gas. If they can manage to maintain their level of play late in the game, they will make it almost impossible for the Thunder to beat them.
Harden has, for the most part, maintained his superstar form. In Game 3, he looked a little lackluster, but everyone deserves an off-day once in a while. In Game 4, Harden posted 32 points, 8 rebounds, and 15 assists almost finishing with a triple-double. Although in the end, it wasn’t enough to overtake the opposing team, he’s going to continue to pose a major challenge on both ends of the court.
With Russell Westbrook slated to return at some point, it’s still the Rockets’ to lose. We’re still waiting for an update to see if he will be playing in Game 5, but in the meantime, Eric Gordon has been taking his place and driving to the basket and keeping things alive for his team.
In the likely scenario that we see Westbrook return for Game 5 or Game 6, it will certainly tip the scales in Houston’s favor.
OKC Looks for Third Straight
There’s one word that comes to mind regarding Oklahoma City’s performance in the last two games and that is, wow. In Games 3 and 4 the Thunder managed come-from-behind victories twice in a row, overtaking the Rockets late in both games.
In Game 3, Paul led his team to a nail-biting victory, defeating the Rockets in OT. In Game 4 we saw a similar situation where the Rockets took an early lead and looked strong to shut out the Thunder from having any chance of winning. In the end, Chris Paul took control of the game late once again, overtaking Houston in the dying minutes and leading his team to another victory, and tying up the series.
Paul, aka Point God, earned this nickname. His skill is hard to peg because he doesn’t post outrageous numbers – he’s averaging 17.6 ppg this season, 5 rebounds, and 6.7 assists. So why is he considered one of the best guards of all time and a probable future Hall of Famer? It’s his presence and decision-making coupled with his stone-cold ability to face down the league’s best players and drain impossible shots in clutch situations game after game.
His leadership is matched by few, and with players like Steven Adams and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander around him, it’s no wonder they’ve managed to stay competitive this series. Coming off the bench, German player Dennis Schroeder has also been stepping up and proving his worth by draining “3s” and playing tough defense.
Also worthy of mention is Lu Dort who has been given the unenviable task of guarding Harden. He’s been making life difficult for the star Rockets guard, forcing Harden to take difficult shots from deep. You have to give Dort some credit for keeping Harden at bay.
BetUS Free Pick: Houston Rockets Moneyline
Houston Rockets: +3 ½ -110 point spread, -160 moneyline
Oklahoma City Thunder: +3 ½ -110 point spread, +140
Despite the uncanny clutch performances of Paul, the Houston Rockets are looking poised for another win. It would be an unbelievable feat if OKC manages to beat them three games in a row. Expect Harden to come out with a fierce level of play for Game 5. He’s been struggling from “3,” but that can only last so long.
Keep in mind the last two games where the Thunder eventually won, the Rockets were in the lead the majority of both games and overall still look like the team to beat.
Also, be wary of such a narrow point spread considering how close the games have been. Things are only going to heat up and both teams are looking to take the series lead. We’re predicting a Rocket victory but it will be hard-fought.
BetUS will keep you updated on the latest news regarding this series and the rest of the NBA playoffs on our NBA news page. There’s a lot of news coming in every day, sometimes by the hour so keep yourself informed and enjoy the playoffs!