Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images. Pictured: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers is pressured by Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers.
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Are you ready to root for missed Rockets and Thunder shots? We are going all in on Houston rebounding today.
The Rockets have lost the rebounding battle all three games against Oklahoma City, by an average of 49.3 to 41. That’s not particularly surprising for the league’s smallest lineup, especially since they’re still missing their best rebounder in Russell Westbrook.
But Houston’s small-ball guys are fighting, and both sides have seen their rebounding number rise in three straight games as the pace quickens and shots aren’t coming as easy. More rebounds for all! Even better news for Houston? OKC mountain man Steven Adams is questionable with a bruised knee. If he’s out, that’s 12.0 rebounds per game up for grabs.
P.J. Tucker has been Houston’s small-ball center for a couple years now. He averaged 6.6 rebounds per game in season. That number dropped to 5.7 since February, and that’s right where he’s at in the playoffs. Tucker had eight boards in Game 3, buoyed by 43.9 minutes in an overtime game. Tucker leads the Rockets in playoff minutes.
All of those numbers have one thing in common: they’re all higher than this 5.5 line. We’re projecting Tucker at 7.7 rebounds, giving some real margin for error here. This prop rates a 10 out of 10, and we’ll play it all the way to -170.
Jeff Green has been the second-best Rockets player in the postseason. Full stop. Green has been incredible as effectively a 6-foot-8 point center. He’s averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists a game, hitting 3.7 threes each time out at over 54%. Green is the tallest Rockets player, and he’s killing OKC right now.
Green is playing 36 minutes per game, just one minute short off the lead for Houston this series, and he’s largely taken Robert Covington’s place in the pecking order. Green has 6, 7, and 7 rebounds in the series, over this number in all three games.
We’re projecting Green at 32.1 more minutes and 6.1 rebounds. Both of those numbers would be Green’s lowest of the series but would also clear the rebounding number here. We’ll ride that over-4.5 boards all the way to -170 and would even play it up a number.
The assists are a bit trickier. Green has games of 4, 0, and 3 dimes in the series. He’s always been an excellent passer coming out of Georgetown and he’s continuing to get some real passing opportunities for Houston as team’s double James Harden and now begin to close out on Green’s elite shooting.
We project Green at 2.2 dimes, right at his series average. I prefer the rebounds prop here but am happy to play both together. I’d play the assists over up to -140.
Playoff LeBron finally showed up in Game 3, and the results were about as expected. James was far more aggressive than he had been in the first two games and attacked the basket relentlessly, getting to the line 17 times and racking up 38 points.
I think the Blazers would far prefer the more passive version of James from Game 1, where LeBron sat back and dimed up his teammates, and I expect them to do all they can to force any other Laker to beat them tonight. LeBron is a generational passer and led the league in assists this season. Still, he’s only had over 10.5 assists in two of his last 13 games, so this is far from a gimme.
One of those was Game 1, when LeBron had 16 assists, despite his Lakers having one of the worst shooting performances in a long time. I’m looking for Portland to force James to be a passer again, and at +EV, that makes this a tempting prop. We’ll play it down to -110 if needed.
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