The No. 4 seed Houston Rockets take on No. 5 seed Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday to open what could be one of the tightest series in the first round of the 2020 NBA Playoffs. Both Western Conference squads are 4-4 since the restart and have struggled of late. The Thunder have lost two of three. The Rockets, who won't have Russell Westbrook (quad) again on Tuesday, have lost three in a row.
Tip-off from HP Field House in Orlando, Fla., is set for 6:30 p.m. ET. After Oklahoma City opened as a 1.5-point favorite, the game is now listed as a pick'em at William Hill. The over-under for total points has moved from 227 to 224.5 in the latest Thunder vs. Rockets odds. Before making any Rockets vs. Thunder picks, see the NBA predictions from SportsLine's advanced computer model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times, and it's already returned well over $4,700 in profit on its top-rated NBA picks this season. It entered the week on a blistering 58-32 run on top-rated NBA spread picks, returning almost $2,300 on those picks alone. Amazingly, it hasn't missed a single top-rated pick (5-0) since the NBA's restart in July. Anybody who has followed it has seen huge returns.
- Thunder vs. Rockets spread: Pick'em
- Thunder vs. Rockets over-under: 224.5 points
- Thunder vs. Rockets money line: Thunder -110, Rockets -110
- OKC: Has earned a playoff berth for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons
- HOU: G James Harden led the NBA in scoring for the third straight year at 34.3 ppg
Why the Thunder can cover
Bench play has been a key to Oklahoma City's success this season. The Thunder reserves have outscored or tied opposing benches in 49 of Oklahoma City's 72 games, with the Thunder posting a 33-16 record when that happens. Oklahoma City's bench is holding its counterparts to the lowest scoring average (34.6), while ranking tied for first in blocks with 181. Also, off the bench, Dennis Schroder is first among scorers (18.9), while Nerlens Noel is fourth in blocks (76).
The Thunder won 17 games this season after trailing entering the fourth quarter. No other team in the league has won more than nine such games. The clutch play of point guard Chris Paul is a big reason for Oklahoma City's knack for comebacks. Paul grabbed his 100th steal of the season in a win over Utah on Aug. 1. It is the 13th time he has reached that mark and the only other players in NBA history to do so more often are Jason Kidd (18), John Stockton (17) and LeBron James (14).
Why the Rockets can cover
Despite that, Oklahoma City isn't a lock to cover the Thunder vs. Rockets spread. Houston finished the regular season 44-28 and is the only team to have gone .500 or better in each of the past 14 seasons. Harden has been red hot since the restart and has scored 39 or more points three times since July 31, when he scored 49 points against the Dallas Mavericks.
Harden also had a 45-point, 17-rebound effort against Indiana on Wednesday. In three meetings against the Thunder this season, Harden is averaging 28.7 points, five rebounds and 5.3 assists, including a 40-point game on Oct. 28. He has faced Oklahoma City 28 times in his career and is averaging 28.3 points, 7.4 assists and 6.2 rebounds.
How to make Rockets vs. Thunder picks
SportsLine's model is leaning over the total, with Harden and Danilo Gallinari among the players who surpass their season-long scoring average in the simulations. It also says one side of the spread hits in almost 60 percent of simulations. You can only get the pick at SportsLine.
So who wins Thunder vs. Rockets? And which side of the spread hits in almost 60 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Rockets vs. Thunder spread to jump on, all from the advanced model that is up over $4,700 on its top-rated NBA picks this season, and find out.