Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets: Predictions and Odds

How to Watch

Where: Toyota Center, Houston, TX

When: 3:00 PM EST, 25 December 2018

How (TV/Radio): ESPN-ABC Simulcast, Fox Sports Oklahoma | WWLS 98.1 FM, 790 AM

The Oklahoma City Thunder

Head Coach: Billy Donovan {All-Time 170-106 | OKC}

The Oklahoma City Thunder currently sit second in the Western Conference, just a game behind the Denver Nuggets for first place.

The Thunder are on a hot-streak, going 7-3 in their last ten matches. In that time, they’ve faced weaker teams in the Bulls, Hawks, and Nets and have lost matches to more formidable squads in the Nuggets and Pelicans.

This match against the Rockets will be a true test for the Thunder. With Chris Paul out indefinitely, the Rockets are missing their chief playmaker. But considering Harden has scored more than 32 points in his last five matches, it won’t be an easy match.

The Houston Rockets

Head Coach: Mike D’Antoni {All-Time 591-485 | DEN, PHO, NYK, HOU}

The Houston Rockets are currently in a three-way tie for eighth place with the Memphis Grizzlies and the Sacramento Kings. A win or a loss for either team will send the other two up the rankings while sending them plummeting down the table.

The Houston Rockets were on a five-game hot streak where James Harden could do nothing but score the ball. Contributing more than 32 points in each match, it took a grind-it-out effort from the Miami Heat to stop the Rockets’ roll.

Against the Thunder, the Houston Rockets will be going up against the leagues premier squads. Russell Westbrook is still as brilliant as ever and with the return of Paul George, the Thunder have pieced together a championship contending team.

What’s At Stake?

Since the Seattle Supersonics move to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, the Rockets and Thunder have met 37 times. In the all-time series, the Houston Rockets lead 20-17.

Should the Oklahoma City Thunder win this match against the Rockets they would tie for first place with the Denver Nuggets. Should the Thunder lose, they would still have a half game lead over the Lakers in third place.

If the Houston Rockets win this match, the would secure eight in the West from he Memphis Grizzlies. Should they lose, they would fall behind the Sacramento Kings and Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference Table.

Questions to answer

Can the Thunder stop the Rockets three-point barrage?

Who will step up in place of Chris Paul?

We are going to compare the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets in an attempt to see who has the advantage in this matchup.

The Rockets are First in 3FG and 3FGA

With 449 three-point field goals and 1302 field-goal attempts on the season, the Houston Rockets are the NBA’s premier threat from beyond the arc. With 42 attempts per game and 49% of their field goal attempts from beyond the arc, it is fair to say the Rockets live and die by the three.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have a ripe crop of wing defenders that can chase the Rockets of the line. The main difficulty with that play is that the Rockets are also full of capable playmakers and finishers.

Expect the Oklahoma City Thunder to switch readily on screens in order to limit any opportunity for shooters to be open from range. James Harden likely can’t be stopped, but slowing the rest of the Rockets team should be the goal.

Next Man Up!

With Chris Paul out for the foreseeable future, the Rockets will have need to shore up their point guard position. While James Harden regularly initiates the offence, the Rockets will want production from their point guards in waiting Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Knight.

Michael Carter-Williams entered the season, primed to be the back-up for Chris Paul. Unfortunately for MCW, a knee injury to start the season and an illness mid-November derailed his contribution. After a promising rookie season, MCW has regressed. He doesn’t shoot the three with the range or volume that D’Antoni likes, so he will have to find a way to contribute in other ways.

Brandon Knight is working his way back from a knee injury, appearing in only five games so far this season for a total of 40 minutes to this date. If Knight can return to form, he will be a valuable piece in place of Paul. For his career, Knight averages 15.1 points, 4.2 assists, and 3.3 rebounds, while shooting 36% from three. Knight has the makings to be the Rockets primary point with Paul out, but it’s up to him and his body to take him to that level.

Oklahoma City Thunder Roster Notes

G-F Andre Roberson (knee) is still sidelined and is targeting a January return.

G Raymond Felton (suspension) has served his suspension and is once again available for selection.

G Dennis Schroeder (suspension) has served his suspension and is once again available for selection.

Houston Rockets Roster Notes

G Chris Paul (hamstring) has a Grade 2 hamstring strain and is out indefinitely.

G-F James Ennis (hamstring) is likely to make his return late-December or early-January.

F Carmelo Anthony (illness) will not rejoin the team.

Head-to-Head: Russell Westbrook vs James Harden

Russell Westbrook

20.6 PPG | 10.4 APG | 9.3 RPG | 2.7 SPG | 0.2 BPG | 4.5 TOV | .433 FG% | .245 3P%

James Harden

31.8 PPG | 8.4 APG | 5.7 RPG | 2.1 SPG | 0.5 BPG | 5.4 TOV | .451 FG% | .379 3P%

Both are former NBA Most Valuable Player Award winners and both shared the court in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform at one point in their career. Russell Westbrook and James Harden are two dominant players that go about the game in different ways.

In this match, Russell Westbrook will look to take advantage of the Rockets thin lineup at point guard. With only Carter-Williams and Knight to challenge him, there’s not a player on the Rockets that can match him.

Since James Harden has joined the Houston Rockets, it seems the recurring narrative is that his is forced to carry his teams for incredible stretches throughout the season. He’ll have to do that once more, now becoming the primary scorer and playmaker for the Rockets as Paul is out. Let’s hope the Rockets front court won’t lose any depth, nobody wants to see Harden line up at the five!

Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets Predictions and Odds

The odds makers have the Houston Rockets favoured over the Oklahoma City Thunder by 1.5, with an over/under of 110.