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Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots as Atlanta Hawks center Alex Len defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Houston won 122-115.
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) shoots as Atlanta Hawks center Alex Len defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Houston won 122-115. |John Amis | Associated Press
NBA

NBA Thursday: Greg Frank picks Rockets vs Thunder — Can James Harden and Houston cover the spread?

Greg Frank

Greg Frank

Rockets (-4.5) @ Thunder (226)

Pick: Thunder +4.5

The Oklahoma City Thunder own the fourth-best cover rate as an underdog in the NBA at 73.9%. Their record is 17-6 ATS as a pup and the three teams ahead of them, the Bucks, Lakers and Celtics, have only combined for 13 games as underdogs. This would seem to support our theory that playoff bubble teams are good bets ATS as dogs. Elsewhere in the West, Sacramento is an impressive 14-9 ATS as an underdog and two games out of a playoff spot entering Thursday. As far as Thursday night goes, Houston played a tightly contested game in Atlanta on Wednesday. Trae Young and James Harden both had 40-point triple-doubles. Had Houston been playing another team as bad as the Hawks tonight, the handicap would get a little trickier — because a bad team might just fold and therefore less effort would be needed from the Rockets. Oklahoma City had actually covered the closing line seven straight games and the Thunder are certainly playing hard for Billy Donovan. Making the playoffs in the first season without both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook would say a lot about Donovan and that’s looking more and more realistic as the time passes. Games like this also say a lot about the Thunder collectively when they continually keep them closer than the oddsmakers expect.

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