Tuesday NBA Playoffs Odds, Betting Picks & Predictions: Rockets vs. Thunder Game 1 (August 18)

Credit:

Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden.

  • The Thunder-Clippers game is listed as a pick'em on Tuesday evening, with the total at 224.5.
  • Houston guard Russell Westbrook will miss the start of the series (and possibly longer), so the market has tilted in OKC's favor since.
  • Get Raheem Palmer's full breakdown and bet on Rockets vs. Thunder below.

Rockets vs. Thunder Betting Odds

Rockets Odds PK [BET NOW]
Thunder Odds PK [BET NOW]
Moneyline -120/+102 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 224.5 [BET NOW]
Time 6:30 p.m. ET
TV TNT

Odds as of Monday night and via DraftKings. Get up to a $1,000 sign-up bonus at DraftKings today or see more offers and reviews for the best online sportsbooks.


In the 2019 offseason, the Houston Rockets traded Chris Paul to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Russell Westbrook. In a twist of poetic justice, a year later these two teams meet in the Western Conference playoffs for the 4-5 matchup. 

At the time, Paul was seen as being past his prime and unable to stay healthy. Now, the Rockets face the prospect of facing the Thunder without Westbrook, who will miss the start (if not all) of the series with a quad injury. The series price opened at Rockets -435/Thunder +320 and was quickly bet down after the Westbrook injury news. The series price currently sits at Rockets -155/+120.

This is a clash of styles with the Rockets and P.J. Tucker playing center, and the Thunder, who play a traditional center in Steven Adams. This is one of the playoffs’ most intriguing matchups where we’ll be able to find some value. 


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Houston Rockets

James Harden is the engine that makes the Rockets go. He’s their top scorer, creator and playmaker, averaging 34.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 62.6% true shooting.  The Rockets are 9.6 per 100 possessions better with him on the court vs. off.  Unfortunately, Harden can’t play all 48 minutes, so how the Rockets manage the minutes while he’s off the floor will play a huge factor in determining not only Game 1, but the rest of the series.

Without Westbrook, the Rockets are tasked with finding a replacement ball-handler and creator. That means Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers should receive some more playmaking responsibilities. One of the more surprising things about digging into Houston’s numbers is that statistically the Rockets aren’t performing any differently with Russell Westbrook off the floor as they are with him on the floor.

The on/off numbers indicate that the loss of Westbrook doesn’t move the needle, but I don’t buy it. It’s a tremendous loss for the Rockets to lose a playmaker who can absorb some of Harden’s load, push the pace and create transition offense while averaging 27.2 points per game, 7.9 rebounds and 7 assists. One of the reasons the Rockets traded Clint Capela was to give Westbrook more space to operate and ensure there aren’t two non-shooters on the floor. 

Now the Rockets are tasked with playing without Westbrook and any bigs. Out of the 22 teams in the bubble, he Rockets are dead last in rebounding percentage (39.1%) and offensive rebounding rate (34.0%).

 

Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City is in the middle of the pack on offense this season, scoring 110 points per 100 possessions while holding teams to 108.1 points per 100 possessions on defense, which is good for seventh in the league.

With Dennis Schroder returning to the bubble, we may see a return of the three-guard lineup in this series.  In 401 minutes together, the lineup has an Offensive Rating of 127.1, Defensive Rating of 98.6 and a Net Rating of +28.6.

Dennis Schroder may have returned to the bubble, but the Thunder still have depth issues of their own to deal with. Their bench is a concern as there just isn’t much there when you get past their starting lineup.

Luguentz Dort has been a bright spot off the bench defending opposing teams’ best wings and would have been ideal to guard Harden, but will be missing from Game 1 with a right knee injury. I think we’ll see minutes from Andre Roberson, as he has the potential to guard Harden. Whether he can do anything on offense so that Houston doesn’t play him off the floor remains to be seen. 

Oklahoma City has a massive size advantage with Adams, Nerlens Noel and Danilo Gallinari, but it remains to be seen if they can capitalize on it without sacrificing anything on the defensive end of the floor.

Betting Analysis & Pick

This series is a true coin flip but I think Oklahoma City will struggle to score with Houston. Oklahoma City has a massive size advantage in this matchup, however in some ways that could play into Houston’s strengths. The Rockets switch everything and typically teams post up Harden with the idea that it’s an advantage. Harden is one of the better post defenders, and typically teams find themselves trading 2s for 3s. 

If Oklahoma City can punish Houston for being small, they win this series, but I think Houston can make bigs like Adams and Noel liabilities on the defensive end of the floor. Adams and Noel will be forced to guard on the perimeter.

We know that the Rockets will be able to score with James Harden on the floor. Although there’s certainly question marks behind the non James Harden minutes, the Rockets have more proven talent on their bench.

My model makes Houston -1.5, so with +1.5 being the widely available number, I like the Rockets in Game 1. 

The Pick: Rockets -1.5

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