Thunder - Rockets Thursday Preview

THUNDER AND ROCKETS RENEW HEATED RIVALRY THURSDAY NIGHT IN NBA ON TNT

It's become one of the most intense NBA rivalries...ever since OKC blamed Houston's Patrick Beverley for injuring Russell Westbrook. It was pretty intense before then, but now these teams HATE each other. And, they hate each other within a very tough Western Conference where every matters and every rung on the playoff ladder influences your championship hopes.

*Houston is currently in a very tight battle for the 3-4-5 seeds with Memphis and Dallas. You know how important it is to finish with a top four record in the West!

*Oklahoma City isn't even in the brackets yet because of early season injuries. The Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans are down around #9-10 as they hope to chase down #8 Phoenix for what is likely to be the final opening.

Houston has been very aggressive using advanced analytics and creative strategies to try to put themselves at the top of the heap. Oklahoma City has basically been the opposite of that. Keep it simple. Keep the ball in the hands of Westbrook or Kevin Durant. Then try to out-talent everyone else. That may be why it's so personal for these teams. Every game is an argument about how basketball should be played.

What's going to happen in Thursday night's showdown that you'll be watching on TNT? JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats will shed some light on that. If you're new to NBA handicapping, you can find the stats below publicly available at the NBA's website, on ESPN, and a few other stathead sites around the web. These are the numbers winning handicappers use!

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Oklahoma City: 101.1 per 100 possessions (#22 in the league)
Houston: 103.0 per 100 possessions (#16 in the league)

Neither team has been as good offensively this year as you've probably been thinking. Oklahoma City was missing both of its big stars for awhile. Since returning the team has been disappointingly inconsistent on the offensive end. They're better than #22 in terms of the current healthy lineup. But, they're not an offensive power. Houston plays a fast pace and shoots a lot of treys. That can trick the media (and handicappers) into thinking it's a great offense. It's a league average offense per possession that occasionally has great games when the treys are falling.

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Oklahoma City: 100.9 per 100 possessions (#8 in the league)
Houston: 98.1 per 100 possessions (#2 in the league)

It's Houston's defense that has keyed the team's very strong run this season. Even with rim protector Dwight Howard missing a lot of time with injuries, the Rockets are second in the NBA on a per-possession basis. Pace hides this from the media (and handicappers), which is something we've talked about a lot in the colleges as well. Oklahoma City is in the top quarter of the league on this side of the ball. Even though it's mostly offensive stars that you think about when these teams play each other (particularly former Thunder star James Harden who's an MVP candidate for the Rockets), this is actually a DEFENSIVE battle when the teams square off.

Pace Ranking
Oklahoma City: #11
Houston: #7

Both teams like to push pace, particularly against opponents who can't handle aggressive guards. That may be less of an issue here because these teams are used to guarding each other...and often bring a little extra intensity because of the brewing rivalry.

Against the Spread
Oklahoma City: 16-19-2
Houston: 22-16

The market had trouble dealing with shorthanded OKC, but knows the drill then the team is at full strength. Houston has been underrated thus far because nobody expected this much defense from them. Given our focus on defense so far, we should look at Over/Under performances. No surprise here that Oklahoma City is 13-24 to the Under, while Houston is 15-23 to the Under. That might be a smart way to attack the possibilities Thursday night.

JIM HURLEY never locks himself into a game just because it's on TV. He's been scouring the entire Thursday card to find the best bets on the board in both the NBA and college hoop action (that could include Cavs/Lakers in TNT's nightcap, or something big from a busy night in the colleges). You can purchase the final word right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us weekdays during normal business hours at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include the rest of football through the Super Bowl, and basketball through March Madness.

We'll be talking football the next three days as we preview Championship Weekend here in the NOTEBOOK. Here's the upcoming schedule over the next several days...

Friday: NFL Early Look...NFC Championship featuring Green Bay at Seattle
Saturday: NFL Early Look...AFC Championship featuring Indianapolis at N. England
Sunday: Bonus Football Coverage
Monday: Big Monday Basketball (Pitt at Duke, Villanova at Georgetown, or OU at Kansas)
Tuesday: College Basketball Preview...Iowa at Wisconsin

Now that football is winding down, many of you are trying to get back up to speed in basketball. JIM HURLEY'S been at full gallop since day one. He'll make money for you in the colleges (where oddsmakers are still way behind the curve) and the NBA (where they're barely paying attention!) BIG, JUICY WINNERS are always just a few clicks away here at JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!

20
Aug

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