and KD vs. The Beard. It’s not quite playoff time, but it’s starting to feel like it. This potential playoff matchup headlines a Saturday slate, but two other Western Conference heavy hitters have our attention, too.
Here’s what you need to know for the final Saturday of the NBA regular season. — Mark Gallant
All info as of Saturday morning. Check back during the day and keep an eye on our Twitter handle for any updates.
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OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER AT HOUSTON ROCKETS (-5.5) | O/U: 218
8 p.m. ET
What I’m watching for: The Thunder need this game; Houston doesn’t. But the Rockets will play it to the bone, because that’s their jam. If you’re live-betting, keep an eye out for how much Houston targets Carmelo Anthony in the pick-and-roll. If they’re not targeting him, they’re not fully committed in this game. If they are, it actually means something to them.
A key component here is going to be Steven Adams vs. the James Harden-Clint Capela pick-and-roll. Adams can maintain space to contest Harden and the lob, forcing runners — the one weak point in Harden’s game, although The Beard’s been better this year in that regard (62nd percentile per possession via Synergy Sports).
OKC’s bench unit has been surprisingly competent this year, but it’s hit or miss. They need to hit to win this game. — Matt Moore
Metrics to know: These squads have met twice this season, splitting the series. In the first one that the Thunder won, Chris Paul was absent and Andre Roberson was still healthy. The second time, CP3 played and the Rockets cruised to a 10-point victory on the road. For all of the talent on both teams in this one, the Rockets are just on another level this season with their two superstars together. Per Cleaning the Glass, in the 1,833 minutes with CP3 and James Harden on the floor together, the Rockets have outscored opponents by 12.6 points per 100 possessions, and they’ve posted an Offensive Rating of 120.6. For reference, the Rockets’ NBA-best season-long mark is 112.8. They’ve been the best team in the league this season when fully healthy. Period. — Bryan Mears