The Houston Rockets will look to wind down the regular season in style on Tuesday night as they prepare for a potential first-round series preview against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Thunder (47-33) enter this matchup in sixth place in the Western Conference standings, but they have a slim 0.5-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers, who both come into the week with a 47-34 overall record. Meanwhile, the Rockets still have a chance to earn the No. 2-seed in the West, but they will need a victory in their final game of the regular season on Tuesday. Houston is in third place in the West with a 53-28 overall mark, trailing the Denver Nuggets by a half-game. While Denver has a game in hand, the Rockets own the tiebreaker between the two teams after winning the regular season series 3-1. Can Houston inch one step closer to the No. 2-seed with a win over the Thunder on Tuesday?
Rockets just half-game out of the No.2-seed
Houston won their sixth consecutive contest on Sunday, taking down the Phoenix Suns 149-113 with a record-setting performance from beyond the arc. The Rockets nailed an NBA-record 27 3-pointers and James Harden scored 30 points in three quarters to help Houston improve to 20-3 over their past 23 games.
The Rockets got some bad news over the weekend, when it was reported that head coach Mike D’Antoni was hospitalized with a virus. D’Antoni expects to be discharged Tuesday and should rejoin the team before their impending first-round series.
Houston is 33-12 when Clint Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden all play together this season and they were 42-3 when all three were healthy last season. The Rockets have been one of the best teams in the NBA since getting healthy too. Since the All-Star Break, Houston has ranked second in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, scoring 116.0 points per 100 possessions and allowing only 104.8 points per 100 possessions on the defensive end of the floor. During that span, they also own the best net rating in the NBA at +11.2.
Thunder fighting for No.6-seed in the West
Oklahoma City riled off their third straight victory on Sunday night, earning a hard-fought 132-126 overtime victory on the road versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. Russell Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists on the night, while Paul George added 27 points as well to help the Thunder keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race.
Oklahoma City is trying to hold off the Spurs and Clippers for the sixth seed in the West. That would help them avoid an impending first-round matchup with the Golden State Warriors. OKC split the season series with the Clippers and lost the season series 2-1 versus the Spurs, so they will potentially need to close the season out with back-to-back wins versus the Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Thunder enter the week ranked fourth in the NBA with a defensive rating of 106.3 for the season, but they’ve slipped on the defensive end since the All-Star Break, allowing 109.0 points per 100 possessions over their last 23 games (11th in the NBA). OKC has also taken a step back offensively as well, scoring only 107.8 points per 100 possessions (26th in the NBA) since All-Star Weekend.
- Rockets are 6-0-1 ATS in their last 7 vs. Western Conference.
- Rockets are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games playing on 1 days rest.
- Rockets are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Thunder are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up win.
- Thunder are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 vs. Western Conference.
- Thunder are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 vs. NBA Southwest.