The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets will both be gunning for a victory on 3/26/2017 at 3:35 PM when they meet in a game matchup.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets
When: 3:30 PM ET, Sunday, March 26, 2017
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
|707||Oklahoma City Thunder||-7 (-110)||232 (-110)||220
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
PREDICTION: Rockets 116, Thunder 108
Oddsmakers currently have the HOUSTON listed as -7 point favorites versus the OKLAHOMA CITY, while the game’s total is sitting at 232.
HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets on Friday night reached 50 victories and remain on pace for their winningest season since 1996-97 yet that significant accomplishment was met with shrugs and statements revealing grander goals.
The Rockets (50-22) have long since exceeded the modest expectations that greeted them entering this season, having long ago entrenched themselves as the third-best team in the Western Conference and an offensive juggernaut.
So after the Rockets rallied past the New Orleans Pelicans 117-107, the Rockets took their benchmark as just another step in a long series of moves to consistent excellence.
“It’s good. Our season ain’t over yet so we’re not celebrating any more wins or anything like that,” Rockets forward Trevor Ariza said. “We are happy that we did get to 50 wins or whatever, but it’s still season left, still more games to play, and take it from there.”
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni playfully set the bar at 60 wins in order to engender excitement on his behalf, a total requiring Houston to run the table starting Sunday when it hosts the Oklahoma City Thunder at Toyota Center.
Houston will enter the matchup without forward Ryan Anderson, who suffered a right ankle sprain on Friday and will be sidelined an indefinite number of games.
Losing a big against the Thunder (41-30) qualifies as bad timing. Oklahoma City ranks second in rebounding percentage at 53.2. D’Antoni will shift forward Trevor Ariza over to the four and also insert guard Eric Gordon into the lineup.
Despite being smaller, the Rockets are still armed with MVP candidate James Harden, averaging 30.6 points and 11.4 assists since the All-Star Game break.
“Yeah, I thought that one a long time ago,” D’Antoni said of Harden making his case for MVP honors. “This guy, what he’s doing every night, I mean come on.”
The Thunder-Rockets showdown will provide one final matchup between the leading MVP candidates Harden and Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, who is on pace to average a triple-double.
With averages of 31.2 points, 10.5 rebounds and 10.4 assists, Westbrook is poised to join Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average a triple-double in a season. Robertson accomplished the feat in 1961-62 yet was third in MVP balloting behind Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.
Oklahoma City will open two games behind Utah for fourth place in the Western Conference playoff picture and 1 1/2 behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fifth. The Thunder are 1 1/2 games ahead of seventh-place Memphis.
Given what’s at stake, the Thunder are more inclined to focus on wins down the stretch to improve their postseason positioning. The larger picture of the Harden-Westbrook MVP chase will be at the forefront for plenty of others.
“Part of that is probably because of Russell,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of his team’s lack of attention on MVP conversations. “Russell really talks more about the team stuff and team-aspect things.
“I’m sure that to a lot of people that vote on an MVP race, people are going to take into consideration how well your team does. That will certainly be a strong consideration by people.”