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Rockets Need A Special Christmas Day Display

December 16, 2018


Will Harden put on a clinic?

The Houston Rockets will aim to kickstart an underwhelming campaign when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Christmas Day.

Houston have not been able to conjure the magic of their last campaign, operating with a .500 record. The club reached the Western Conference Finals in the previous season and were only beaten by the brilliance of the Golden State Warriors.

Mike D’Antoni’s men won the top seed with the best record in the Western Conference, but at the time of writing have almost lost the same amount games this term as they did in the entirety of the last campaign. James Harden remains at the peak of his powers, but he and his team-mates have to improve their level of form on the court in a competitive conference.

The Thunder are one of the teams to have risen from last season. They were defeated in the first round of the playoffs, but appear to have found their rhythm on the court. Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Dennis Schroder are connecting, guiding their side to a strong start to the campaign.

Oklahoma City have been inconsistent on the road in December, including a poor defeat to the Chicago Bulls. They cannot afford to be off the game at the Toyota Center.

Get the best odds on Christmas day games with our top sportsbooks below:

Houston Rockets

The Rockets have not been the team they were last season. D’Antoni’s men were dominant last season, crushing their opponents with the quality of their offense. Houston won 65 matches on their way to clinching the number one seed. They made a run to the Western Conference Finals where only the Warriors stopped them short of the NBA Finals. The club managed to keep the majority of their roster intact and added Carmelo Anthony to the rotation to replace Ryan Anderson. Chris Paul penned an extension along with Clint Capela to remain at the Toyota Center, giving optimism that the Rockets could go one further that last term.

However, it was far from the case as Houston managed to lose five out of their opening six matches to start the season. D’Antoni has managed to rally his team since to get them back on track, although the move for Anthony has not paid dividends. The forward and the team had a mutual parting of the ways in November, which will test the depth of the roster between now and the end of the campaign. History has proven that the sixth man can be a vital player, especially in the playoffs, leaving the Rockets to find an answer to the role elsewhere.

Harden has remained at the peak of his powers averaging 30 points per game. The support that was present for the shooting guard last season has dissipated, beginning with Paul, who has not been at his best in the opening third of the campaign.  PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon are also struggling to reach their peak form on the court, although Capela has taken a step forward. His development could be a vital factor for the Rockets later in the term.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have found a rhythm on the court this season without being over reliant on Westbrook. Although the 30-year-old’s statistics are down from previous years, it has been to the betterment of his team. Billy Donovan’s men put too much pressure on the All-Star after the departure of Kevin Durant in 2016 even though he won the MVP award, but he is now starting receive the support from his team-mates. Westbrook has been limited with injuries and has not reached the peak of his powers yet.

It’s an encouraging sign for the Thunder that they are able to boast a strong record even without him in the line-up. Westbrook is averaging 21.5 points per game, which would be his lowest scoring output since his third season in the NBA. The 30-year-old has improved drastically in the defensive third of the court, notching 10 defensive rebounds per game along a career-high 2.2 steals. Although the point guard has not hit the personal heights of two previous seasons, he will surely be more than satisfied to have the burden of winning the game almost single handed lifted from his shoulders.

Paul George’s arrival last season did stem the tide as the forward enjoyed an impressive first season with the Thunder. The 28-year-old has kicked on from last term and has become Oklahoma City’s most dynamic player, averaging 24.5 points per game – which would be a career-high for George. Schroder has also played an important role off the bench, providing another quality option. He played well last season for the Atlanta Hawks and has managed to maintain that standard. Between the three players there’s enough talent to put points on the board, while their defensive play has rounded the Thunder into top-five unit in limiting opponents.

Betting Options

There will be a lot of star power on show in the meeting between the two sides. The duel between Westbrook and Harden will be the headline. Whichever player scores the most points may win the game for their side. There is a lot of quality playing on Christmas Day, but the value for Harden to top score on the day at odds of +140  is a solid bet to take.

Westbrook specialises in the triple-double, achieving the feat four times already this season – back him to produce his best in all three facets at odds of +120  with TopBet. Both players have intriguing MVP odds, with Harden backed at +900  and Westbrook at +1600  with MyBookie – there’s plenty of value there given the stage of the season.

Oklahoma are a team that are trending in the right direction and appear to be balanced on offense. Houston are looking like a one-man band, with Harden on a solo mission. Back the home side to get the job done with a victory through Westbrook, George and Schroder at odds of 1/1  with TopBet, while back the over on 221 total points at odds of 10/11  with Betway.

Tips Summary

Oklahoma City Thunder To Beat Houston Rockets
Tuesday 25th December 2018 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
Odds: 1/1

Over 221 Points To Be Scored
Tuesday 25th December 2018 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
Odds: 10/11

James Harden To Top Score NBA Christmas Day Games
Tuesday 25th December 2018 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
Odds: +140

Russell Westbrook To Record Triple-Double Christmas Day
Tuesday 25th December 2018 15:00 ET (20:00 GMT)
Odds: +120

  • Houston Rockets
  • James Harden
  • nba
  • Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Russell Westbrook

    About the author

    Simon Sinclair
    Simon Sinclair

    Sports Writer

    Simon is a freelance sports writer from the UK. He passionately writes about all kinds of sports, sharing his predictions on everything from the latest cricket matches and golf tournaments to major horse racing events and popular American sports.