Thunder-Rockets Betting Preview: Will Houston Keep Crushing Overs?

Thunder-Rockets Betting Preview: Will Houston Keep Crushing Overs? article feature image

Photo credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Harden

Betting Odds: Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

  • Spread: Rockets -2
  • Over/Under: 234.5
  • Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ABC

>> All odds as of 10 a.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

Harden. Westbrook. CP3. PG.

The stars are out tonight in Houston for this important Western Conference matchup. Where’s the edge in tonight’s betting odds? Our analysts take a look.

Betting Trends to Know

Russell Westbrook has recorded a triple-double in eight consecutive games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Westbrook’s streak of eight straight triple-doubles is the longest such streak since Wilt Chamberlain had a nine-game streak in 1967-68 to end the regular season. During that streak, Chamberlain and the Sixers went 7-2 straight up, while Westbrook and the Thunder enter this game 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread.

The two most profitable home teams to the over this season are the Houston Rockets (18-9, +8.2 units) and Oklahoma City Thunder (17-9, +7.2 units). For their showdown Saturday night, the over/under opened at 235.5, the 40th game this season that opened with a total of 235 or more, with the under going 21-16-2 (56.8%), going under the total by 4.6 points per game. Between 2005 and 2017, only 27 games opened with a total of 235 or more and the ended up almost dead even, at 14-13 to the under. — Evan Abrams

Mears: How I’m Betting Tonight’s Game

Oklahoma City yet again has an elite defense this season, ranking fourth in efficiency. And yet, tonight’s over/under sits at a high 234.5. What gives?

Honestly, it’s hard to argue it’s correct to be high. First, the trends Evan mentioned above: These teams have hit the over at a substantial rate this season.

Second, the Rockets are definitely an intriguing over team right now for a couple reasons. Chris Paul and Eric Gordon are back in action, and the Rockets have consistently pushed the pace more with those guys on the floor than when it’s just James Harden operating in isolation sets. Specifically with Gordon on the floor, the Rockets have run 3.9% fewer halfcourts plays than with him off; that’s in the 97th percentile of player splits this year.

Further, the addition of Kenneth Faried as the main center with Clint Capela out with injury has largely been a net neutral effect; the Rockets are slightly better with him on vs. off, although that’s partly because the depth hasn’t been great lately.

But Faried has fairly drastic splits: With him on the floor, the Rockets have increased their effective field goal percentage by 4.4% — the 94th percentile of players. Unfortunately, opponents have also increased their eFG% by 3.4%, which puts him in the fourth percentile of defenders in that regard. He’s essentially all offense, no defense right now.

Faried even has drastic rebounding splits with the Rockets: With him playing, Houston has grabbed 9.5% more offensive boards (best mark in the league). But a similar effect hasn’t exactly occurred on the defensive glass. That might be a problem against a Thunder squad that ranks fifth in offensive rebounding.

Given that context, it seems both squads will push the pace — the Thunder rank second in the league in transition opportunities — and should get extra opportunities via offensive rebounds. Those are correlated, too: Teams that crash the offensive glass obviously are committing fewer resources to getting back and forcing teams into halfcourt sets.

Still, it’s a really high number. I’d perhaps lean toward the over given the data points I just mentioned, but I think there might be a better opportunity to live bet the total instead.

The Rockets have consistently started off hot this season before coming back to earth later in the game. Here’s both teams’ Net Rating by quarter:

Thus, the best opportunity might be to wait until after the first quarter and try to catch a live over/under that’s too high — perhaps in the 240 range. Let’s hope the Rockets do indeed come out hot and give that opportunity. — Bryan Mears

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.