UPDATE: Aug. 29, 4:56 p.m. — Westbrook will be limited to around 25-28 minutes in his return to the lineup Saturday vs. the Thunder, per coach Mike D’Antoni.
UPDATE: Aug 28, 10:39 a.m. — Westbrook is expected to play in Game 5 vs. the Thunder, according to FOX 26 (Houston) sports director Mark Berman. Game 5 was scheduled for Wednesday, but was postponed following player protests in the aftermath of the Jacob Blake shooting. Reports have the playoffs resuming on Saturday, but game dates and times have not yet been announced.
With Russ back in the lineup, we’ll likely see Danuel House Jr. go back to the bench. It makes sense for the Rockets to keep Eric Gordon in the starting lineup at SF. Westbrook has had some extra rest, so we shouldn’t see him too restricted in this important game. With that, most of the Rockets’ value gets syphoned. Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore won’t see much playing time. Jeff Green has been playing too well not to get minutes.
UPDATE: Aug. 26, 12:18 p.m. — Westbrook has been upgraded to questionable to play in Game 5 vs. the Thunder on Wednesday. So it looks like Russ has a shot at making his playoff debut for Houston tonight. He was considered day-to-day on Tuesday. Perhaps some sense of urgency is setting in for the Rockets, who have blown a 2-0 lead in the series.
Rockets guard Russell Westbrook will be upgraded to questionable to play in Game 5 vs. OKC tonight. He had been out with a strained quadriceps muscle.— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) August 26, 2020
Right now, the Rockets are still favored by 3.5 points despite dropping the past two games. I imagine a lot of bettors are leaning towards OKC getting points coming off back-to-back wins. If Westbrook can return and isn’t held back, all bets are off (well not really). We’d just want to see how the line reacts to the news. I wouldn’t buy into it that much. With or without Westbrook, the matchup appears to be pretty even now that the Thunder have figured out what to do on defense.
Houston Rockets PG Russell Westbrook is considered day-to-day with a quad injury, per coach Mike D’Antoni. Westbrook has been sidelined for the entire first round due to the quad. He has yet to make his Rockets playoff debut with their first-round series vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder tied 2-2.
Mike D’Antoni says Russell Westbrook is day-to-day.— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) August 25, 2020
This is a bit of an update for Westbrook, who is looking to get back into the lineup for the first time since the seeding round. The Rockets are in a tough spot now with the series tied 2-2 after they went up 2-0. Houston has been leaning too heavily on James Harden so far and it’s starting to wear on the team. They could easily have swept the Thunder in four games, but instead will need to fight to make it into the second round.
If Westbrook is able to come back for either Game 5 or Game 6, it would be a huge boost for the team. It doesn’t appear he’s ready to return, but being day-to-day is better than nothing. If Westbrook gets back into the lineup, expect him to start but be eased into action. So we should still see a tight rotation and plenty of Jeff Green, Austin Rivers and Ben McLemore off the bench.
From a betting perspective, this series looked like it was going to be all Houston after many backed OKC. Now, that has swung back to the Thunder. So Westbrook returning could sway people onto the Rockets again. Houston is still favored on DraftKings Sportsbook by 3 points for Game 5. With Westbrook likely out, it seems favorable for OKC getting points. They have all the momentum in the series. Their defense has stepped up and Harden hasn’t shot the ball well or gotten to the line as often as he’s accustomed to.
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