Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder 8/24/20: Starting Lineups, Matchup Preview, Betting Odds

Houston Rockets vs Oklahoma City Thunder Preview

The Thunder earned a critical victory in Game 3 to cut the Rockets’ series lead to 2-1. Oklahoma City’s win was keyed by exceptional play from all three of their award-worthy point guards. Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder combined for 78 points on 49.1% from the field and 16 assists. As a team, the Thunder shot just 34.1% from 3-point range and 67.6% from the free-throw line for the game. However, they still had better shooting efficiency than the Rockets for the game and outrebounded them by 8. After a frenetic close to regulation time, the Thunder went on an 11-0 run in overtime to salt away the victory. OKC has been one of the biggest surprises of the season as head coach Billy Donovan, a Coach of the Year finalist, led his team to a 44-28 regular-season record despite losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George over the offseason. The Rockets are seen as a dark horse championship contender, though, and a Thunder win would certainly be an upset. They’re now one game closer to reaching that goal.

The Rockets shot just 30% from 3-point range in Game 3 against the Thunder as poor performances from deep from James Harden (3-13), Eric Gordon (2-10), P.J. Tucker (1-5), and Austin Rivers (0-4) limited the team’s offensive productivity. The Rockets will need to bump up their shooting closer to their performances from Games 1 and 2 to avoid an upset in this series. The offense has become a bit more one-dimensional without Russell Westbrook in the lineup. He has missed the team’s last five games and Eric Gordon has struggled as the starter in his absence – Gordon is shooting 15.4% from 3-point range in the playoffs. Houston is hoping for a deep playoff run and the health of Russell Westbrook, as well as improvement in form from Eric Gordon, will be critical to them reaching that goal.

TV Schedule

Date: 8/24/20
Time: 4:00 PM ET
Arena: AdventHealth Arena, Orlando, FL
Channel: TNT

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Injuries

Rockets: Russell Westbrook (out), Luc Mbah a Moute (out)
Thunder: Steven Adams (questionable), Isaiah Roby (out)

Rockets Starting 5

PG: Eric Gordon
SG: James Harden
SF: Danuel House Jr.
PF: Robert Covington
C: P.J. Tucker

Rockets Analysis

Los Angeles ClippersJames Harden has been a beast in the playoffs so far as he’s averaging 32.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 6.7 assists through the first three games. He finished Game 3 with 38 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. In addition to relying on Harden as the team’s scoring hub, he’s also asked to handle almost all of the playmaking duties with Westbrook out of the lineup. Alongside Harden in the backcourt, Eric Gordon hasn’t been able to contribute as much as head coach Mike D’Antoni hoped for when he put him in the starting lineup with Westbrook out. Gordon is shooting miserable percentages across the board, especially from three (15.4%), and he is almost averaging as many turnovers as assists. Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore have been ineffective off the bench, so it’s up to Harden to handle almost all of the backcourt responsibilities.

When Houston traded away Clint Capela earlier this year, it was clear they were completely leaning into the small-ball, pace-and-space ideology. They now essentially start three small forwards who can switch everything defensively, although Robert Covington and P.J. Tucker have done an awesome job as quasi-big men. The Rockets have been out-rebounded in each of the three matchups in this series, but having three forwards on the court who can handle various defensive matchups and shoot threes is critical to their system. Covington hasn’t quite been himself offensively in this series as he’s averaging just 6.0 points per game, but he’s been a defensive deterrent with 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks per game. Tucker is shooting 47.1% from 3-point range on 5.7 attempts per game in the playoffs, making him the team’s most consistent shooter. Finally, at small forward, Danuel House is averaging career-highs across the board in his fourth season and is scoring 14.3 points per game in the playoffs.

Thunder Starting 5

PG: Chris Paul
SG: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
SF: Lugentz Dort
PF: Danilo Gallinari
C: Nerlens Noel

Thunder Analysis

Dallas MavericksSteven Adams left Game 3 early with a knee contusion, and while he’s one of the toughest players in the NBA, he was unable to participate in overtime in that contest. I’m leaving Adams out of the lineup for now until we hear more about his status, likely during shootaround before the game. If Adams is unable to play, I expect Nerlens Noel to draw the start, although the Thunder did play a significant chunk of minutes without a traditional center in Game 3 to match up with the Rockets’ small-ball lineup. Noel finished Game 3 with just 3 points and 2 rebounds in 13 minutes. Danilo Gallinari is the other frontcourt starter and he has been OKC’s leading scorer in the playoffs with 22 points per game. Gallo is an excellent shooter and face-up scorer.

In the backcourt, OKC starts a three-guard lineup with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Lugentz Dort. Dennis Schroder also plays a ton of minutes off the bench and is essentially the 6th starter on this team. SGA has averaged 21 points per game in the playoffs and is shooting 3-pointers at a 41.2% clip on 5.7 attempts per game. He’s quickly turning into the centerpiece of OKC’s future and he has clear future All-Star potential. Chris Paul has also been excellent in the playoffs with 20.0 points per game on 42.9% 3-point shooting. Dort is not nearly as much of a scorer as he’s averaging just 8.5 points per game in the playoffs, but his defensive switchability is important and he’s spent long stretches guarding James Harden in this series to a surprising degree of success. Dennis Schroder is very important to this team and is a 6th Man of the Year candidate. He’s averaging 16.0 points per game in the playoffs.

Rockets vs Thunder DFS Angle

Rockets vs Thunder Betting Odds

Rockets Spread: -3.0
Rockets Moneyline: -152
Thunder Spread: +3.0
Thunder Moneyline: +128
Over/Under Points Total: 221.0

All three games in this series have been decided one way or the other by double digits. If the Rockets are hitting their outside shots at a certain clip, they’re one of the toughest teams to beat in the NBA. However, they’re prone to letdowns as we saw from them in Game 3. If their shooters get back in rhythm at least somewhat for Game 4, I expect the Rockets to win and by more than 3 points. However, the Thunder showed a level of resolve in Game 3 we hadn’t seen from them yet. We know Harden is going to play lights-out every night, but without Russell Westbrook in the lineup, the Rockets lose a lot of their unpredictability. Westbrook creates so many extra chances with his rebounding, hustle, and driving ability. I believe the Thunder might be just finding their groove in this series, and I would consider putting some money on their Moneyline for this contest but only if Steven Adams plays. If Adams doesn’t play, bet the over on the points total as his rim protection has been a major strength for the Thunder defensively. These two teams have averaged a combined 222.0 points per game this series.

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What's up, I'm Jacob. I grew up watching Peyton Manning play and stuck with the Broncos after he retired. I'm also probably the only Clippers fan you'll ever meet. I'm from Southern California but I'm a junior at the University of Michigan studying sport management. Beyond my passion for sports I play guitar, grill a mean rib eye, and enjoy gambling on pretty much everything.

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