Houston Rockets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder
Date and Time: Friday, April 21, 2017, 9:30 p.m. ET
Location: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK
Rockets vs. Thunder TV Coverage: ESPN
The MVP award is given for individual accomplishments during the course of a season and no one will be upset if Westbrook has the honor bestowed upon him. After all, he did things the NBA hasn’t seen in over half a century. But the difference between the Thunder and Rockets was glaring on Wednesday. Harden dropped 35, but he got plenty of help from his teammates as Houston overcame an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to escape with a 115-111 win.
With the Thunder keying on Harden defensively, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams stepped up. The two combined for 43 points off the bench and came close to outscoring the entire OKC team minus Westbrook’s 51. While Harden had an off night from the floor making just 7 of 17 field goals, he made up for it at the free throw line by going 18 of 20. Houston won its fifth straight over OKC dating back to the regular season, but failed to cover the 7.5-point line on Wednesday and is just 3-2 ATS in that span.
Westbrook’s 51 points were enough to help the teams cash the over, but his missed shots in the fourth quarter likely cost the Thunder a victory. The line was impressive with 13 assists and 10 rebounds for another triple-double, but Russ had his difficulties. With the game hanging in the balance in the fourth quarter, Westbrook misfired on 14 of his 18 field goal attempts and made just 1 of 7 from three-point range in the decisive last quarter.
This is Westbrook’s team and he’ll try and do whatever he can to help them win, but his display on Wednesday was ridiculous. Sure, give him the MVP for scoring 51 in a playoff game, but his team lost. And a deeper look at the numbers proves Russ may have gone overboard. He attempted 43 shots and went 2 of 11 from distance.
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Westbrook says he trusts his teammates to make plays, but it sure didn’t look that way on Wednesday night. Russ took 43 shots for the game and had 18 of the teams 29 field goal attempts while playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. He took it upon himself to try and win the game and instead watched the Thunder blow an eight-point lead in the final frame to fall into a deep hole in the series. Westbrook still had 51 points and collected a triple-double but said postgame that he doesn’t care about the stat line.
And he shouldn’t because wins are what advances a team in the postseason, not triple-doubles. Now that Russ is completely pissed about his performance, I expect him to play a more complete game and for Billy Donovan to give him a breather in the fourth quarter. Westbrook said the minutes weren’t a factor, but I have to believe otherwise.
Rockets vs. Thunder Free Picks
The Thunder took a huge step from Game 1 and could’ve easily split the first two games if the ball bounced their way on Wednesday. Instead, OKC is facing a steep deficit and needs a win to get back in the series. OKC has dropped five in a row to the Rockets, but the last four were all in Houston, including the first two games of this series. And with the exception of the Game 1 blowout, the games have been close.
That’s why I expect the Thunder to have the advantage in this game. Westbrook will put up his numbers, but better shot selection and a few more makes will lift OKC. Check back for odds at BookMaker.eu and give the points with the home team. Russ can’t do it by himself, though he’ll try, and his mates will back him up in front of their frenzied fans.
Rockets vs. Thunder ATS Pick: Give the points with Oklahoma City at BookMaker.eu
Rockets vs. Thunder Score Prediction: Thunder 119 – Rockets 114