The Thunder and Rockets might have the tightest playoff series out of all the ones still playing. The teams will meet for Game 5 in Orlando on Saturday, with a loss being near-fatal, putting one team in a 3-2 hole. With the return of Russell Westbrook, we will see a very different Rockets team.
Their identity is three-point shooting, but they are at a huge loss when he isn’t playing. And now that Russ is finally back, they will have driving lanes open, and a lot more open looks than before. The back-to-back losses coming into this game can be avenged today.
The Thunder, on the other hand, has got to be happy just to be here. After being given a 0.1% chance by ESPN to make the playoffs, they’ve gone and pushed this series to 2-2. Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schroder have been playing great ball all year, and it has continued into the recent games of this series.
They’ll need to continue to lock in defensively, but they aren’t dead in the water just because Westbrook is back.
The spread for Saturday’s game favors Houston by 5.5 points. The over/under is set at 226.5.
OKC Looks to Make It Three Straight
After consecutive wins, things are starting to look up for the Thunder. They came through in the clutch in each of the last two games, which should come as no surprise. They have the best clutch rating in the league, outplaying most opponents down the stretch in close games.
Chris Paul leads the NBA in points scored in the final five minutes of close games this year, and he has two other trusty guards in the lineup with him. The defense of Lu Dort has proven to be series-changing, the undrafted rookie putting the clamps on James Harden constantly. It is absurd that no team wanted to draft this guy.
We’ll see if they close the game with Danilo Gallinari at the center spot for the third game in a row.
Houston in Must-Win Situation
With Westbrook back in the lineup, they are finally healthy and ready to compete. Either Eric Gordon or Danuel House will be bumped from the starting lineup, giving the bench a further scoring boost. With Jeff Green already playing great ball with the second-unit, it now gets even better.
Westbrook gives them the attacking presence they have been lacking. Harden’s ability to get to the basket has been failing him throughout the course of the games. Now they can keep two guys in the corners at all times, ready to catch and shoot from the point guard on his passes.
And while they might be undersized, they make up for it with all of the heart they play with. Defensively, they are so much better than they get credit for.
Rockets Get Back into the Win Column
This is a must-win game for the Rockets, and they will overplay the Thunder. They need a win, and they will be able to pull out.
FREE PLAY: HOU -5.5
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