Rockets-Thunder Betting Guide: Time to Buy Low on Houston?

Rockets-Thunder Betting Guide: Time to Buy Low on Houston? article feature image

Photo credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Harden

Betting odds: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Spread: Rockets -4.5
  • Over/Under: 214
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: TNT

>> All odds as of 12:45 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

The 4-5 Houston Rockets visit the 6-4 Oklahoma City Thunder, who may or may not be without Russell Westbrook, who missed last night’s win with an ankle injury. Still, we have a line of -4. Is there value on either side? Our analysts discuss.

Mears: The Rockets Have Been Unlucky This Year

Houston was the first team to truly embrace Moreyball (which is obviously why it’s called that) — the idea of forgoing inefficient mid-range shots at the expense of more valuable 3-pointers and shows in the paint. It’s a somewhat high-variance strategy, and thus people throw out the adage, “Live by the 3; die by the 3.”

That’s somewhat true because 3-pointers are more random than other shots, and so far, the Rockets have been on the wrong side of variance this season.

They’re still taking a ton of 3-pointers: Per Cleaning the Glass, they rank first again in the league in 3-point rate (39.7%) and third in the corner. The problem, of course, is that they rank 25th (33.5%) in actually making those shots, which has some to do with losing guys like Trevor Ariza but is also a lot of poor luck.

On defense, it’s the same story. The Rockets rank third in the league in preventing 3-pointers — opponents are taking them only 28.9% of the time — and ninth in corner-3 frequency allowed (6.1%).

Houston’s opponents are about average on regular 3-pointers, but they’re an incredible 41.7% from the corner. The average is about 38% from that area, so the Rockets are due for positive regression in that area.

Diving deeper: Houston ranks seventh in the percentage of shots classified as open (a defender 4-6 feet away), but the Rockets are just 29th in field goal percentage on those.

They lead the league in open 3-pointers but have hit just 31.8% of them. You get the point: It’s easy to panic on Houston — they’re just 4-5 and have covered the spread in only three games — but sometimes teams get unlucky for a small stretch.

I’ll be buying this team over the coming weeks as regression hits. — Bryan Mears

Locky: Finding Value in the Spread

Honestly, it’s a great time for the Rockets to be catching Oklahoma City. James Harden finally returned and had some late-game heroics against Indiana, and now the team continues its long road trip after having the past two days off.

Meanwhile, the Thunder are possibly going to be without Russell Westbrook, and they’re playing on the second game of a back-to-back.

All of those things are very public and very known, and the narratives around the teams are no secret. What’s intriguing to me — and what is not necessarily baked into the numbers yet — is the Rockets defense and how much it’s improved recently.

I think we can say with certainty that the defense had some really rough spots early on — in the opener against New Orleans, and then in a loss to the Clippers on Oct. 26 (Defensive Rating of 131.1 in that game! Translation: atrocious).

And even though the offense was quite good against Brooklyn to start this trip, the defense still struggled.

However, in the past two games, the Rockets have had their two best defensive performances of the season (both wins), and although you may consider Harden a defensive liability, having so many different players injured and rotating, no matter WHO they are, is going to hurt a team’s defensive identity.

Now in Game 2 with Harden back, the team will at least have some continuity. There has been a lot of talk about assistant Jeff Bzdelik (referred to as Houston’s “defensive architect”), who retired from coaching this offseason, as the reason for the struggles. Well, Bzdelik has returned to the team, and to me, that can only help.

As Evan details below, the Thunder without Westbrook struggle on the offensive end on average, so facing an improving Houston defense with their best player back — this line may actually not be high enough.

I think Houston may be one of those tough teams to model and rate still because there’s so little predictive data. Every game is a new injury, a new lineup and a different type of rotation or struggle.

If there’s so much mystery, sometimes that can create value. I’ll take the Rockets here as they continue to try to figure things out with Harden back in the fold. — Ken Barkley

Betting Trends to Know

After beginning the season 1-5 straight up, the Rockets have won three straight games, all on the road, in the midst of their five-game road trip.

In the past decade, as head coach of the Rockets, Lakers and Knicks, Mike D’Antoni has been one of the most profitable coaches against the spread in the league while on extended road trips.

  • 2nd game or later: 93-72-4 ATS (56.4%)
  • 3rd game or later: 46-30-1 ATS (60.5%)
  • 4th game or later: 22-10 ATS (68.8%)

The Thunder could play their third game this season and their fifth game over the past two seasons without Westbrook. He’s day-to-day with an ankle injury and missed last night’s win over the Cavaliers.

The Thunder are 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS, but the real impact without Westbrook has been the Thunder’s pace and the over/under.

In terms of pace this season, the Thunder are averaging 3.3 more possessions per 48 minutes this season Westbrook on the floor (106.1 to 109.4), which is basically the difference between the Wizards, who are eighth in pace (106.1) and the Kings, who are second in pace (109.2).

The Thunder’s effective field goal percentage without Westbrook could be another reason to focus on the total. With Westbrook, Oklahoma City has an eFG% of 55% (would be fifth in NBA); without him, that drops to 44.5% (last by 3.5%). — Evan Abrams

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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