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No. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. No. 8 Houston Rockets

Series Price: Oklahoma City -2000, Houston +1200

Series Format: Oklahoma City, 2-2-1-1-1

Game 1 - Sunday, Apr. 21
Game 2 - Wednesday, Apr. 24
Game 3 - Saturday, Apr. 27
Game 4 - Monday, Apr. 29
Game 5* - Wednesday, May 1
Game 6* - Friday, May 3
Game 7* - Sunday, May 5

Oklahoma City Thunder 60-22 49-31 34-7 26-15 37-43 105.7 96.5
Houston Rockets 45-37 41-40 29-12 16-25 41-41 106 102.5
2012-13 Head to Head Meetings
Date Results Total
Nov. 28, 2012 Oklahoma City (-10.5) 120 vs. Houston 98 OVER 210
Dec. 29, 2012 Oklahoma City (-4.5) 124 vs. Houston 94 OVER 213
Feb. 20, 2103 Houston (+3) 122 Oklahoma City 119 OVER 220.5

Skinny: Oklahoma City is seeking a return trip to the NBA Finals after posting a 60-win year. Before the season, the Thunder dealt James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, who averaged 14.0 points per game while shooting at a 42.6 percent clip from behind the 3-point line.

Kevin Durant produced another monster season, averaging 28.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He finished second in the NBA in scoring behind only Carmelo Anthony. Durant is an incredible shooter, evidenced by his 51.0 percent marksmanship even though he takes the majority of his jumpers from the perimeter.

Russell Westbrook is one of the Association’s most explosive players. He can take any defender with his quickness off the dribble and finishes strong at the rim with his jumping ability. Westbrook averages 23.2 points, 7.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds per contest.

In his first season with Houston, Harden proved that he could be a franchise player by averaging 25.9 points, 5.8 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Harden is surrounded by young talent and this is clearly an up-and-coming squad that enters the postseason with a nothing-to-lose attitude.

Chandler Parsons blossomed in his second season, averaging 15.5 PPG while shooting at an efficient 48.1 percent clip from the field. Parsons also averages 5.3 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest. The University of Florida product is 6-10 with guard-like skills and a rapidly improving game.

Jeremy Lin averages 13.4 points and 6.1 assists per game. Omer Asik, signed as a free agent away from the Bulls this past off-season, averages a double-double (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG).

Head-to-Head Matchups: In the first meeting on Nov. 28, OKC cruised to an easy 120-98 win as a 10.5-point home favorite. The 218 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 210-point total.

Durant dropped a game-high 37 points on the Rockets and also had seven rebounds and four assists. Serge Ibaka dominated the paint with 23 points, nine rebounds and six blocked shots. In the losing effort, Patrick Patterson scored a team-high 27 points. James Harden scored 17 points, but he had a horrible game. Harden was an abysmal 3-of-16 from the field and had the same amount of turnovers (three) compared to assists (three).

On Dec. 29 at the Toyota Center in Houston, OKC dealt out another shellacking by a 124-94 count as a 4.5-point road ‘chalk.’ The 218 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 213-point tally.

Westbrook led the winners with 28 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Durant added 26 points and Nick Collison came off the bench to produced 12 points, 10 boards, three assists and three steals.

Harden scored a team-high 25 points for the Rockets, but he struggled against his former team again. Harden made just 6-of-17 shots from the field, finishing with only three rebounds and one assist compared to four turnovers.

The third head-to-head encounter had different results. Houston rallied in the fourth quarter to collect a 122-119 win as a three-point home underdog. The 241 points soared ‘over’ the 220.5-point total.

Harden made amends for his two previous lackluster performances against the Thunder by exploding for 46 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Lin finished with 29 points, seven assists and six boards.

Westbrook had 28 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Durant recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 12 boards and 11 dimes.

Betting Notes: Most books are listing Oklahoma City as a 10-point home favorite with a total of 213 for Game 1. Gamblers can take the Rockets to win outright for a +450 return (risk $100 to win $450). has OKC with the second-shortest odds to win the NBA title (+550). On the flip side, Houston has the second-longest odds (300/1).

OKC has been a double-digit favorite 25 times this year, compiling a 16-9 spread record. Houston has been a double-digit underdog only twice, going 1-1 ATS.

The ‘over’ has hit in four consecutive head-to-head meetings between these clubs. All three encounters went ‘over’ this season with the following combined point totals: 241, 218 and 218.

The ‘under’ cashed at a 6-2 clip in OKC’s last eight games of the regular season.

Series Outlook: OKC will advance but I definitely think the Rockets win at least one home game. I’ll say the Thunder in five but won’t be shocked if Houston gets to a Game 6.

Lawrence: Opening Round Angles
Mejia: Fearless Predictions
Rogers: Saturday's Early Action
Edwards: Saturday's Late Action
News: Playoff Series Odds posted
Mejia: Grizzlies get to 50
Nelson: Surprises and Disappointments
Lawrence: Zig-Zag Theory
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