Thunder vs. Rockets Odds & Pick: Expect A Close Game 2 On Thursday

Credit:

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

  • The Thunder lost Game 1 of their first-round NBA Playoffs series to the Rockets, 123-108, as a 1-point favorite.
  • Now Oklahoma City is a 2.5-point underdog to Houston for Game 2 on Thursday.
  • Our basketball betting analyst Raheem Palmer explains why he's picking OKC to cover.

Thunder vs. Rockets Odds

Thunder Odds +2.5 [BET NOW]
Rockets Odds -2.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -140/+1205 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 226.5 [BET NOW]
Time 3:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN 

Odds as of Wednesday 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.


The Houston Rockets made easy work of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a 123-108 victory to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. The Rockets closed as 1.5-point underdogs in game 1 and it appears that the market overreacted to the Russell Westbrook injury news. After a 15-point clobbering of the Thunder, the Rockets now open as 2-point favorites in Thursday afternoon’s matchup. 

A lot has been made of Oklahoma City’s size advantage, however the Rockets’ small-ball lineup held its own as it outscored OKC in the paint, 44-38. In addition, during the first half — which ultimately determined the outcome of the game — the Rockets had a 15.8% offensive rebound rate to the Thunder’s 10.5%.

With Houston’s small-ball lineup dominating the Thunder in Game 1, where is the betting value for Game 2?

Houston Rockets

One of the biggest surprises about Game 1 was how well Houston’s defense performed. Houston switched everything, making Oklahoma City’s offense stagnant while creating 13 turnovers for 19 points.

In the absence of Russell Westbrook, Houston’s bench stepped up in a big way. Eric Gordon was the primary ball handler in the non-James Harden minutes and was aggressively looking for his offense all night. He finished with 21 points, four assists and three rebounds.

In addition, Jeff Green provided 22 points, four assists and three rebounds and was 3-for-7 from 3-point range. Ben McLemore also provided timely shooting, going 4-for-7 from behind the arc for 14 points. With the bench providing so much, Harden only played 34 minutes. 

Harden put up his typical stat line with 37 points, 11 rebounds and three assists and delivered timely baskets to stave off Thunder runs. But if the Rockets can win in blowout fashion with Harden playing less than a full share of minutes, it spells trouble for the Thunder. One of the Rockets’ biggest issues in previous years has been Harden burning out towards the end of playoff series, and this certainly helps alleviate those issues. 

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Oklahoma City Thunder

Oklahoma City’s offense was stagnant due to Houston’s switching defense. In some ways, this should have been expected.

Per Second Spectrum, Chris Paul has seen his points per possession decline against switching defenses over the last four seasons, going from 1.062 PPP in the 2016-17 season to 0.973 PPP in the 2019-2020 season. Although most teams that switch have a traditional big man that Paul can capitalize on when they switch pick and rolls, the Rockets have no bigs to exploit. Although Paul finished the game with 20 points, the bulk of it came after the result was already decided as he didn’t score his first points until the second quarter.

In addition, the Thunder made things easier for the Rockets by not moving the ball, playing faster, posting up Harden and playing non-shooters like Terrance Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo and Andre Roberson. As we discussed in the Game 1 preview, teams typically post up Harden under the impression that it’s an advantage and we saw them get very little from Danilo Gallinari posting Harden up. Unfortunately, the Thunder didn’t get anything from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who scored 9 points on 2-of-8 shooting. Overall, I’d like to see OKC give more minutes to shooting bigs like Darius Bazley and Mike Muscala to open up driving lanes. Abdel Nader could also be useful for shooting. Allowing Harden to hide on Diallo and Ferguson with impunity hindered their offense.

In the second half, Oklahoma City found something with the Paul-Dennis Schroder-Shai Gilgeous-Alexander-Gallinari-Steven Adams lineup that cut the 21-point lead down to 11 in a span of 2:36. This five-man lineup had the best net rating in the league this season at 29.9.

It helped that Schroder was able to do the best job at defending Harden out of anyone on the team. Even after nearly two years off due to injury, I had high hopes for Roberson’s ability to guard Harden, however he was unsuccessful in his three minutes on the floor, fouling him on a 3-point attempt and allowing him to blow by him at will. With Luguentz Dort out, the Thunder will have to find someone to defend Harden.

Betting Analysis & Pick

No home court advantage really changes handicapping the NBA playoffs. Under normal playoff circumstances, I’d be looking to pass or back Houston here in Game 2 while electing to play Oklahoma City at home in the first quarter and first half of Game 3 should should they go down 2-0, as it’s been one of the most profitable angles over the last five to 10 seasons. Unfortunately, we’re in uncharted territory as teams are playing in the bubble with no home court advantage.

Oddsmakers adjusted the Game 1 line from Thunder – 1.5 to Rockets -2.5. As much as I think this is a bad matchup for Oklahoma City in that Houston should win the series, I don’t believe Houston will sweep this team. We’ve seen bounce-back games from Brooklyn and Utah in their respective Game 2s and I expect similar from Oklahoma City. The Thunder found something that worked with the three-guard lineup in the second half and I expect to see that earlier. I believe Houston played its best possible game, and that creates value on Oklahoma City. 

The Rockets had a 129 Offensive Rating in the half court. It was the Rockets’ best performance in the half court against any playoff team this season and the Thunder’s worst mark all year. It’s hard to expect 22 points from Green every game.

Oklahoma City is certainly facing a math problem. With a better offensive performance, less turnovers, and fewer struggles in the paint, I expect a close competitive game that Oklahoma City may just win outright. 

The Pick: Thunder +2.5

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