It’s homecoming night in the January 9th NBA betting free pick as Russell Westbrook returns to Oklahoma City for the first time as a visiting player. The line of Houston -2 is interesting as the Rockets are playing on leg two of a back-to-back after beating Atlanta on Wednesday. Westbrook did sit vs. the Hawks in preparation for Thursday’s emotional tilt – is that why the Rockets are getting the edge?
Houston a Risky Wager on the Quick Turnaround?
The Rockets got the win over Atlanta while giving Westbrook rest for Thursday – that’s the good news. The bad news is that James Harden and Clint Capela both logged 36+ minutes, as did Danuel House. Harden went for 41 and Capela had a 20/20 line but how well can they bounce back in the January 9th NBA betting free pick?
Houston might not actually be in a bad spot here – in fact the back-to-back may even help them a bit. This is because prior to Wednesday night’s game, the Rockets had the previous 4 nights off. They were able to shake off some rust vs. Atlanta and get ready to repeat the 116-112 win in Houston on October 28th.
Harden’s 41 points came on 9-34 shooting on Wednesday that included 4-20 from three point range. Capela was a monster for the 2nd straight game, going for 30/14 and 22/22 the last two games. The Thunder rank pretty solid against the post, but OKC will also be without Nerlens Noel (ankle). If Capela can find the energy reserve, he should be the X-factor (if Westbrook decides to pass the ball).
OKC In a Great Spot as a Home ‘Dog?
Even if they had 4 nights off prior to Wednesday’s game, the Rockets are still traveling for the 2nd consecutive day. The Thunder have won 6 of their last 7 with only a 7-point loss at Philly (on the 1st leg of a back-to-back) being a blemish. OKC also boasts a 12-6 record at home this season and is just 4 games back from Houston in the win column.
One of the big reasons that Oklahoma City is a home underdog in this one even at home is because they’ll not only be without the extra big in Noel, but Danilo Gallinari and his excellent defense will also be out with a calf contusion. Gallinari had helped OKC rank 3rd defensively vs. the SF position. Oklahoma City also ranks 8th vs. the SG and 9th defensively vs. the PG – Houston’s obvious strengths.
Lost in all the hubbub of Westbrook returning home is the fact that Chris Paul will be facing his old team the Rockets as well. The veteran knows this team well and along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Dennis Schroder gives the Thunder a very potent back court attack. Houston ranks 28th in the league defensively vs. the SG and 20th vs. point guards.
January 9th NBA Betting Free Pick
Quite frankly it seems like the wrong team is favored in this one. Make no mistake Houston can win any night against any team, but the emotion of Westbrook returning to Oklahoma City is going to trickle down through the whole Houston roster. The Rockets are already tired after two nights of travel and if OKC can overcome a couple second tier injuries, they win this outright let alone cover the +4.
Pick: Oklahoma City Thunder +4