With Russell Westbrook rejoining the Houston Rockets in Game 5 after missing the first four games against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a quad injury, the Rockets regained the lead 3-2 in their first-round series against the Thunder. Chris Paul and the Thunder have their backs against the wall in a do-or-die situation against his old team.
The Rockets started the series 2-0 without Westbrook before dropping the next two games. Westbrook returned for Game 5 and scored only seven points, but the team rallied in the second half and cruised to a 34-point blowout.
The Rockets are one game away from advancing to the Western Conference semifinals. The eventual winner of this series will meet the #1 Los Angeles Lakers in the West semis. The Lakers knocked out the #8 Portland Trail Blazers in five games.
#4 Houston Rockets (3-2) vs. #5 Oklahoma City Thunder (2-3)
Point Spread: HOU -5.5
Total: 225 O/U
Money Line: OKC +190 / HOU -220
DraftKings updated its NBA playoffs series odds and the Rockets are a huge favorite at -1430 odds to knock out the Thunder. Meanwhile, the Thunder are +800 to pull off a sick comeback to win the series in seven games.
According to DraftKings, the Rockets are 11/1 odds to win the 2020 NBA Championship. The Thunder are 150/1 long shots to win the title.
RWB Returns, Harden Can’t Shake Dort
Russell Westbrook added seven points, seven assists, and six rebounds after missing the start of the series.
“We’ve missed him the first four games,” said head coach Mile D’Antoni. “Now we’ve got him, and let’s see what we can do. I knew he was going to be a little rusty, but he gave us a nice little spark.”
“He brought that energy,” Harden said. “Bought that excitement we were missing.”
With Westbrook on the court, it’s an instant boost for the Rockets. The Thunder can’t afford to double and triple-team Harden.
Then again, the Rockets have a Luguentz Dort problem on their hands. Dort, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona State and originally from Canada, averages eight points per game in the playoffs for Oklahoma City. However, Dort has been the Thunder’s primary lockdown defender and Harden’s shadow.
Dort does a stellar job of smothering Harden whenever he’s on the court. Harden averages 32 ppg in the postseason, but the majority of those points occurred when Dort wasn’t defending him.
Italian Rooster the Key for OKC?
The Rockets shut down Danilo Gallinari in the last two games, limiting him to just a single point in Game 5. He scored just 10 points in his last two games.
Gallinari, which loosely translates to rooster in Italian, only averages 15.2 points per game (down from 18.7 ppg this season).
If Gallinari steps up with a big shooting night, the Thunder will be tough to beat in Game 5.
As a team, the Thunder are hitting only 30% of their 3-point attempts. Against a trey-happy squad like the Rockets, the Thunder can’t afford to have another ugly night from downtown. Every 3-pointer counts.
Someone other than the Thunder’s trio of guards will have to provide additional scoring power. Chris Paul leads the Thunder with 20.4 points per game, followed by Dennis Schroder (19.4 ppg), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (17 ppg, 6.4 rebounds).
Even in a crappy game like Game 5, Schroder still got his points. He added 19 points off the bench in the blowout before he got tossed in the third quarter during a spat with PJ Tucker.
Big man Steve Adams has been consistent for a double-double every night this series. The Kiwi banger averages 11 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.