The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten blown out three times, but have managed to gut out enough close calls to force Game 7 in their opening-round series against the Houston Rockets.
Wednesday's decider is packed full of anticipation. OKC had zero expectations entering what was thought to be a tanking job, yet managed to make the postseason. Meanwhile, Houston carries championship expectations, especially in a year without the Warriors factoring in.
What will give in this Thunder-Rockets tip-off? Read abe Insights' betting preview for more before you wager on this game. Below you'll find the best odds available across the major sportsbooks, key stats, a breakdown of the main lines and more.
Date: Wednesday, September 2
Time: 9 p.m. ET
Implied Probabilities: Thunder 35%; Rockets 68%
Spread: HOU -5.5
Moneyline: OKC +185; HOU -210
Chris Paul suffered a sprained left hand down the stretch of the regular season, and his Rockets rival Russell Westbrook was dealing with a quad strain until returning in Game 4. Thankfully, CP3 has played through the pain, as both squads are healthy entering tonight.
Houston is relying on small ball and heavy 3-point shooting, consequences be darned. When it's worked, the Rockets have won decisively, but in the instances where the shots aren't falling as often, OKC has capitalized to send this series the distance.
54.2 vs. 49.8: These initial stats are the effective field goal percentages for Houston and OKC respectively over the past six fixtures. The Thunder are third-worst among playoff squads, while the Rockets rank ninth, as their total is slightly up from the regular season, whereas OKC's is down from 53%.
15.7 vs. 12.5: Oklahoma City is turning it over at the NBA's third-highest rate during the postseason, lagging well behind Houston in this area. It's especially notable because the Thunder didn't make as many mistakes during the 2019-20 campaign, with the league's seventh-lowest turnover percentage (13.7%).
25.6 vs. 17.5: Once again proving how extreme the favorites' philosophy is of living or dying by the 3-pointer, they're way behind OKC in offensive rebound percentage this series. When the Rockets are misfiring, it doesn't lead to a lot of second-chance possessions, as the Thunder's size and hustle serves them well here.
This is a watershed moment for the Rockets franchise, one that could be a scathing indictment or a continued quest for validation for their unconventional hardwood approach.
Head coach Mike D'Antoni has been known for years for his "Seven Seconds or Less" offense. It's never translated to an NBA championship, but in the years he had his best chances with Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, D'Antoni was ahead of his time. Imagine what he could do with today's Warriors.
But Wednesday could mark the end of the D'Antoni era in Houston if he can't lift his squad out of the first round. Superstars James Harden and Russell Westbrook are getting too late into their careers to not have had a championship. Although they've coexisted better than expected as ball-dominant guards, they're once again on the brink of playoff disappointment.
There's really no pressure on the scrappy Thunder. They're playing with house money, to borrow some sports betting lingo. OKC fans were probably expecting to wish for luck during the NBA draft lottery before the season began — not to advance to the second round of the playoffs.
No one epitomizes the immortalized-by-Kawhi paradigm of, "It's a make-or-miss league" more thoroughly than the Rockets. Game 7 is the big test against an overachieving adversary in the Thunder, who could catalyze a cataclysmic change to Houston's NBA destiny.
Houston has shown more engagement on defense than usual since the bubble began, and the Thunder have been grinding all season on that end of the court with superior effort. It should be a fast-paced affair, but expect more bets to go on the Under.
As for the other lines, well, the Rockets are favored for a reason. If they simply execute their plan to strike the Thunder from beyond the arc, they should win going away. Look for the betting public to be swayed by sentiment bias due to the star power of Harden and Westbrook, leading to wagers skewing toward Houston's spread and moneyline.
Note: Odds current as of 1:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 2.
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