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The Houston Rockets are clinging to a playoff spot in the Western Conference as four teams battle for the final three slots. The Rockets aren’t getting much help from the schedule in their quest to move up the standings and will visit Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday.
Houston fell at the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday and is one game ahead of the ninth-place Utah Jazz, who visit the Rockets on Wednesday. Starting with the loss to Atlanta on Saturday, Houston is playing a stretch of nine straight games against teams currently in the top eight of their respective conferences. The Thunder sit comfortably in third place in the West thanks to the heroics of Kevin Durant and Westbrook, who would likely be the leading MVP candidate if Golden State’s Stephen Curry weren’t enjoying a historic season. Westbrook picked up his 14th triple-double of the season with 14 points, 14 assists and 11 rebounds in a 115-111 win at Indiana on Saturday and has recorded five triple-doubles in the last eight games to help Oklahoma City gain some separation from the fourth-place Los Angeles Clippers in the standings.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
LINE HISTORY: n/a
Rockets – SG J. Harden (Questionable Tuesday, ankle)
Thunder – SF K. Durant (Probable Tuesday, elbow)
C S. Adams (Probable Tuesday, elbow)
SF K. Singler (Questionable Tuesday, back)
COVERS POWER RANKINGS: Rockets (-2) – Thunder (-9.8) + home court (-3) = Thunder -10.8
DANCE TEAM WAR:
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (35-35): Houston is tied with the Dallas Mavericks for seventh place in the West, one game ahead of the Jazz and a half-game behind the sixth-place Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets not only suffered a 109-97 loss to the Hawks on Saturday but also got involved in some controversy when center Dwight Howard was caught putting stickum on the basketball, and they were dealt a blow when James Harden sprained his ankle in the third quarter. Harden, who averages 28.6 points, reportedly could sit out practice on Monday and is day-to-day.
ABOUT THE THUNDER (48-22): Oklahoma City already clinched its playoff spot and is in tune-up mode with a 4 1/2-game lead over the Clippers for the No. 3 spot. Westbrook is in a bit of a shooting slump and went 4-of-17 from the field on Saturday, but keeps finding ways to help the team win. “I’m just trying to insert myself into the game,” Westbrook told reporters. “I know some nights shots won’t fall for me. I’m one of the only guys who can do different things on the floor – rebound, pass or defend – on a night-in, night-out basis. That’s what I try to do.”
* Rockets are 4-0 ATS in the last 4 meetings.
* Thunder are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games playing on 2 days rest.
* Over is 7-0 in Rockets last 7 games following a straight up loss of more than 10 points.
* Under is 5-0 in Thunder last 5 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
COVERS CONSENSUS: n/a