NBA Playoffs: Greg Frank picks defense-minded Rockets to close out Thunder
Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) drives against Oklahoma City Thunder guard Luguentz Dort (left) during the second half of Game 4 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.Kim Klement | Pool via Associated Press

NBA Playoffs: Greg Frank picks defense-minded Rockets to close out Thunder

Oklahoma City Thunder vs Houston Rockets — tipoff is 9 pm on TNT

Rockets (-5) @ Thunder (226.5)

Pick: Rockets -5

The Eastern Conference Semifinals have already begun in the NBA with Boston’s Game 1 victory over Toronto on Sunday and Milwaukee and Miami set to open up tonight. The West is still finishing up the first round as things were certainly more competitive and Denver forced a seventh game with Utah yesterday. Oklahoma City attempts to do the same tonight against Houston, but I don’t think the Thunder will be as fortunate.

Russell Westbrook shook off some rust in Game 5 returning from a quad injury and should look more like his normal self on Monday for the Rockets. But what was really impressive about Houston’s performance on Saturday night was its commitment to defense. Oklahoma City went a putrid 7-46 from the three-point line. The Thunder shot just 31.5% from the field. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari, two of the Thunder’s three leading scorers in the regular season, combined for five points. Against a Rockets team that can pour in triples like nobody else, this was obviously a recipe for disaster.

The Lakers responded in a big way after losing the first game of their series against the Trail Blazers to win four straight and close it out in five. The Clippers ended the Mavericks' upset bid on Sunday, closing out Dallas in six. Now it’s time for another Western Conference contender to draw the line in the sand against an opponent that has made them work hard. The Rockets wins by double digits tonight.

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