Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Matchup Preview
The 1st round of the NBA playoffs has begun, and there is a quite interesting matchup ahead of us in the Western Conference. The 4th seeded Houston Rockets will take on the 5th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder in a best of seven series. It is quite ironic that this is the 1st round matchup for these teams, as there is a lot of history between them. Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook, who will miss the beginning of this series with a quadriceps injury, played the first 11 years of his career with the Thunder. If Westbrook can return from his injury in time to play in this series, that will be quite entertaining to watch. Thunder point guard Chris Paul was traded from the Rockets in exchange for Westbrook, and Harden himself was traded to Houston from OKC back in 2012. This series should be an entertaining one with so much history between these two franchises and their star players. The Rockets run one of the most interesting and exciting offenses to watch in the NBA, as they start a 6’5 center and rely on shooting to win games. On the other hand, the Thunder only had a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs after trading Westbrook and Paul George in the offseason. Both teams had interesting paths to the playoffs, and both teams are looking to advance to the next round.
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Arena: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
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Thunder Starting 5
As I stated earlier, the Thunder aren’t even supposed to be in this position. They were given a 0.2% chance to make the playoffs at the start of the season but shocked the world by going 44-28 and clinching the 5th seed in the Western Conference. Much of this team’s success can be attributed to Chris Paul, who made his first All-Star Game since 2016. The emergence of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has also been huge for OKC, who the team acquired in their trade with the Clippers involving Paul George. Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points per game and flashed loads of potential with the Thunder this season. The team also got solid contributions from Danilo Gallinari, who they also acquired in the Paul George trade. Gallo averaged 18.7 points per game on 40.5% three-point shooting, some solid numbers for a role player. The Thunder also still have Steven Adams holding down the paint, who is a solid defender and excellent pick-and-roll player. Chris Paul has been able to get many of his teammates involved thanks to his all-world playmaking ability, and in turn, has transformed the Thunder from a nobody to a playoff-contender. They will have a tough matchup ahead of them in the Houston Rockets, but I do think that this is certainly a series that the Thunder are capable of winning.
Rockets Starting 5
Unfortunately for Houston, Russell Westbrook suffered a quadriceps injury in the bubble. He will be unable to play for them for at least the first few games of their series against Oklahoma City. With that in mind, the Rockets are going to need extra production out of their role players. It is safe to say that James Harden will always get his regardless of the situation, as the man averaged 34.3 points per game in the regular season. However, without Westbrook on the floor, someone else is going to have to step up. The team is loaded with shooters, including Robert Covington, Ben McLemore, and Jeff Green. All of these players are going to have to hit their shots to replace Westbrook’s production. Their offense might run a bit differently, as well. Even though Harden has the ball in his hands the majority of the time anyway, even more of the team’s offense will run through him without Westbrook by his side. Considering that the Rockets face Steven Adams down low, I could also see them breaking away from their patented small lineups and throwing a center in there. Without Westbrook to create the spacing they need, I could see someone like Tyson Chandler get bigger minutes in this series. Hopefully, Westbrook can return during this series so that we can see him play against his former team on the biggest stage.
Rockets vs Thunder Fantasy Basketball Angle
For the daily fantasy basketball angle for this matchup, I am going to highlight James Harden. “The Beard” is the obvious choice to highlight in this game, as he is the best player on either team. Harden averaged 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game in the regular season, making him one of the league’s best fantasy players. The guy routinely puts up big numbers thanks to his scoring and playmaking ability. His sidekick, Russell Westbrook, is out for this game with a quadriceps injury. With that in mind, Harden will be forced to take on an even bigger role in this team’s offense without the team’s second-leading scorer on the floor. When you consider that, Harden is an obvious choice for fantasy purposes and will most likely have a big performance in this one. If you are lucky enough to have him on your fantasy team, start James Harden.
Rockets vs Thunder Betting Odds
Thunder Odds: -126
Rockets Odds: +108
With Russell Westbrook listed as out for this game, the oddsmakers have favored the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 1. Even though Westbrook won’t be playing, I still think that the Rockets are going to win this game. They have such a dynamic offense and perhaps the best scorer in all of basketball in James Harden. While I wouldn’t be too surprised if Oklahoma City gets the win, I’m still going to bet on Houston and James Harden.
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