Who plays who in the first round of the NBA playoffs is not set in stone yet. But most of the matchups are theoretically set. We do not know who the Los Angeles Lakers will face (either Memphis or Portland). But we do know who the Houston Rockets are going to play.
They will be facing Chris Paul and the Oklahoma City Thunder in what should be a hard-fought and entertaining best-of-seven series. Some books do not have odds posted yet, but most that do are favoring the Rockets:
Oklahoma City Thunder – Houston Rockets Series Winner Odds (Best-of-Seven)
Clearly, the Sportsbooks appear to be confident that the Rockets will be able to take down the Thunder. According to the odds, the Rockets have between a 60-70.15 percent chance of winning the series while the range is 35.21-45.45.
So, according to the oddsmakers, the Thunder have a shot but not a great one. If you just look at the stats, you have to wonder a little why the odds aren’t closer to 50/50. Their records will finish no more than a game apart.
As far as the seeding games go, the Rockets finished a shade better on the defensive end of the court (16.4 defensive rating to 107.1 for the Thunder). However, Houston does have a distinct advantage on the offensive end (118.0 pts/game to 108.3 for Oklahoma City).
It is worth noting that the Thunder have been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the bubble (20th of 22 teams; Houston ranked 12th). There average was actually less than their regular-season average while Houston’s was about the same.
The Rockets have had a few more injury issues than the Thunder in the bubble
So—how should you bet?
Oklahoma City has been playing above and beyond expectations all season. But Houston is the more talented team of the two. Chris Paul will be out for blood, but as long as James Harden is healthy, the Rockets will win the series.
If the Thunder were given better odds, there would be value in taking them, but at +184, the risk is not worth the reward. However, with the options FanDuel also offers (other than the series winner), there are ways Thunder fans can make money:
- Correct Score After Three Games
- Oklahoma City Thunder 3-0 +730
- Oklahoma City Thunder 2-1 +168
- Houston Rockets 3-0 +520
- Houston Rockets 2-1 +140
With Russell Westbrook out for at least the first two games, it is not hard to see the Thunder getting out to a 1-0 or even a 2-0 lead. Whether Westbrook is back for Game Three or not, Harden will take over the game on his own to make sure the Rockets get a win.
Because Westbrook will be out for at least two, do not even think about taking Houston to go 3-0. There is a chance they could go 2-1, but it is easier to see the Thunder being up 2-1 and Houston winning the series in either six or seven games.