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Rockets, Thunder clash

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Houston Rockets (44-19) at Oklahoma City Thunder (46-17)

Sportsbook.ag Line: Oklahoma City -3.5, Total: 217

The Rockets look to stay perfect in March when they visit the struggling Thunder on Tuesday night.

Houston has been on an absolute tear since the end of January, winning 15 of 17 games SU (11-6 ATS) since that time, including five straight victories to begin this month. They have topped 100 points in all five of these wins, three of which came against excellent teams (Miami, Indiana and Portland). The Rockets defeated the Blazers 118-113 as 6.5-point favorites on Sunday while holding them to just 40.6% shooting and forcing 20 turnovers.

Oklahoma City has been slumping, losing two straight, and five of its past eight games SU (2-6 ATS). The Thunder suffered an embarrassing 114-110 loss against the 12-point underdog Lakers on Sunday despite outrebounding them by 23 boards (59-36).

Houston will now embark on a three-game road trip, but the club is a strong 18-12 SU (16-14 ATS) when playing on the road this season. But Oklahoma City has been one of the best teams at home this season, going 26-6 SU (17-15 ATS) in front of its fans. The season series between these teams has gone the way of the Thunder so far, as they have won both games SU and ATS while playing once in each team’s arena.

After rolling to a 117-86 home blowout on Dec. 29, they went into Houston in their last matchup on Jan. 16 and held the Rockets to just 40.2% FG en route to a 104-92 victory as 2.5-point underdogs.

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Going back three seasons, Oklahoma City holds a 10-5 SU record (8-7 ATS) in this series with 10 of the 15 games going under the total. Houston has been good to bettors this season after allowing 110+ points, going 12-3 ATS, while the Thunder are 15-5 ATS after failing to cover two of their previous three games this season.

On the injury front, the Rockets come in with no significant new injuries while Oklahoma City will be without SG Thabo Sefolosha (calf) for another 3-to-5 weeks.

Houston is one of the most dynamic and high-energy offenses in the league, ranking third in the league with 106.6 PPG on 47.5% FG (4th in NBA), including 111.0 PPG (48.9% FG) over their five-game winning streak. Their defense has allowed 101.6 PPG (17th in NBA) on just 43.8% FG (5th in league) and 34.6% threes (also 5th in NBA) this season, but has been much worse over 30 road games, giving up 104.5 PPG on 45.2% FG.

SG James Harden (24.9 PPG, 5.7 APG, 4.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG) is the driving force behind his team’s success and is coming off an incredible game against Portland on Sunday (41 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals). That gives him 28.2 PPG (52% FG, 41% threes), 7.8 APG, 5.2 RPG and 2.6 SPG during Houston's five-game win streak. He has actually played poorly against his former team this season over two games, averaging 12.0 PPG (32% FG, 2-of-11 threes) with 5.5 APG and 5.0 RPG against the Thunder. Last season, he lit up his old teammates for 29.3 PPG (44% FG, 55% threes) over three meetings.

C Dwight Howard (18.9 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.8 BPG) has a double-double in three of his past four games, averaging 18.3 PPG (59% FG) and 12.0 RPG over this timeframe. But his paltry 10.0 PPG (35% FG, 2-of-9 FT) and 8.5 RPG against Oklahoma City this season has been much of the reason the Rockets have struggled in the matchup. But his 19.2 PPG (57% FG) with 13.2 RPG over 21 career games against them suggests he has a strong chance at a big game on Tuesday.

SF Chandler Parsons (16.5 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.9 APG) has averaged just 14.0 PPG over his past four games played and has had major trouble from behind the arc, making only 3-of-16 from long range. He has netted 12.4 PPG (42% FG) while grabbing 5.3 RPG with 1.6 SPG in eight career games (7 starts) against the Thunder.

Oklahoma City is producing 105.7 PPG (5th in NBA) on 47.5% FG (5th in league) this season, including an astronomical 118.3 PPG on 49.1% FG so far in March. The usually solid defense (99.2 PPG, 10th in NBA) has struggled during the current 3-5 slump, surrendering 110.3 PPG on 47.4% FG (41.9% threes) in these past eight games.

SF Kevin Durant (31.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.4 SPG) has carried this team on his back all season and recorded a triple-double (27 points, 12 assists, 10 rebounds) in the loss against the Lakers on Sunday. His dominant performances in the two games against Houston this season (34.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 6.0 APG) has led to two wins, and his strong play should be expected once again.

PG Russell Westbrook (21.2 PPG, 7.1 APG, 5.8 RPG, 1.9 SPG) had a near triple-double (20 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds) on Sunday, but shot only 7-for-23 from the field in the loss, including 2-for-10 from three-point range. He has averaged 19.2 PPG (45% FG), 6.8 APG, 5.1 RPG and 1.4 SPG over 18 career games in this matchup, but missed both meetings this season with injury.

PF Serge Ibaka (15.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 2.5 BPG) also had a strong game against Los Angeles with 21 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks and two steals, and has at least two blocks in each of his past seven contests (2.7 BPG). His 14.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 3.5 BPG in two games against the Rockets this season are well above his marks of 11.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 2.9 BPG that he has over 16 career games (12 starts) against them.

  
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