After cruising to a victory in the opening contest of the first round, the Houston Rockets are looking to maintain home-court advantage. They’ll host the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday night in Game 2 of their 2017 NBA playoff series.
It all starts at 8 p.m. EDT when the Rockets take the floor at Toyota Center, where they’ve won 31 of 42 games this season. TNT will have the TV coverage, and fans can watch a free live stream online at tntdrama.com.
Every higher seed began the first round as the favorite in their respective playoff series, but experts predicted the Rockets to have more trouble than any other favorite. The Thunder won 47 games in the regular season, and they are led by the likely MVP. Russell Westbrook was the second player ever to average a triple-double for an entire season, and he set a record by recording double-digit points, assists and rebounds in 42 games.
Westbrook, however, didn’t get a whole lot of help from his supporting cast. It led to a 31-point loss in Game 1, and it could put Oklahoma City in a 2-0 series hole.
Westbrook certainly didn’t play up to his standards in Game 1, missing 17 of his 23 field goal attempts and committing nine turnovers. He came three assists shy of posting yet another triple-double, and he was unable to do so because his teammates were struggling from the field.
Aside from Westbrook, the rest of the Thunder made less than 41 percent of their shots, including Victor Oladipo, who missed 11 of his 12 attempts. Westbrook’s teammates made seven shots on his 17 passes that could’ve led to an assist. Conversely, James Harden’s teammates went nine-of-10 on such passes.
Harden has put up similar numbers to Westbrook all year, and he got the better of his counterpart in Game 1. He put up 37 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, while Houston shot 49.5 percent as a team.
Perhaps most importantly, Houston managed to somehow win the point guard battle. Patrick Beverley simply played better than Westbrook, scoring 21 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and dishing out three assists. He also added two steals while playing terrific defense.
A few things should change in Game 2 that will make it a closer contest than Game 1. Westbrook will likely outduel Beverley, and Harden’s teammates won’t score on 90 percent of his passes. Oklahoma City should perform much better on the glass, considering they grabbed 15 fewer rebounds than Houston after entering the game as the NBA’s leading rebounding team.
The Thunder might not get blown out Wednesday night, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to win. Houston defeated Oklahoma City in three of their four regular-season meetings, and the Thunder have now been defeated by double-digits in all three of their road games against the Rockets.
Las Vegas betting odds have Houston favored by eight points, via OddsShark, and the over/under is 223. Look for the Rockets to win fairly easily in a high-scoring affair.
Prediction: Houston over Oklahoma City, 120-109