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According to 2019 NBA title odds, Rockets should be in the mix again

According to 2019 NBA title odds, Rockets should be in the mix again
Steph Curry and the Warriors are already favorites to win the 2019 title, but the Rockets are right there again. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NBA Finals are not over, but with the Warriors in complete command with a 3-0 lead, it is time to look ahead to next season. The Rockets came oh so close to playing for the title, but Chris Paul’s injury and the 0-for-27 3-point shooting streak in Game 7 ended their chances.

While changes will be coming this off-season, the presumption is Paul will return to the Rockets, once again making them contenders.

At least that is what the early 2019 title odds say.

According to sportsbettingdime.com, the Rockets are expected to be the second choice to win the Western Conference at around roughly 3-1, behind the favored Warriors.

The odds also seem to imply that Lebron James will not be returning to the Cavs. Obviously, where James winds up is part of the speculation and is factored in the odds.

The Warriors are about to close out their third title in four years, and will be favored to make it four out of five. But once again, the Rockets are expected to be part of the mix. It is early, and what happens in the off-season could sway things significantly. But early returns put the Rockets right there.

Again.

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Suns defeat Rockets, 110-105. Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images.

Phoenix All-Star Devin Booker and Houston rookie Cam Whitmore got into a minor scuffle midway through the fourth quarter Thursday night and both players were called for a technical foul.

With a couple big blocks on the ensuing possession, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic was there to back his star teammate.

Booker scored 35 points, Kevin Durant added 24 and the Suns held off the Rockets 110-105, with the teams set to meet again in Phoenix on Saturday night.

Nurkic had 16 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks before fouling out. His biggest moment came in the fourth, when he stuffed Whitmore twice on the possession following the scuffle, drawing huge roars from the Phoenix crowd.

“Very important — that's the team sticking together,” Booker said. “That goes a long way. That's what you need when things get tough, it gets to the thick of things and the energy is high. You want to know you have people on your team that are built like that.”

Booker scored 20 points in the first quarter to help give the Suns an 18-point lead they would never relinquish. He has scored at least 20 points in an NBA-high six quarters this season.

Three-time All-Star Bradley Beal missed his fifth straight game because of a hamstring injury.

The Suns took an 86-75 lead into the final quarter. Houston cut the advantage to six midway through the fourth, but Booker responded immediately with a 3-pointer to push the lead back to nine.

That led to the brief skirmish between Booker and Whitmore. Tempers stayed hot over the next few minutes — Houston's Alperen Sengun fouled out and then got two quick technicals, earning an ejection.

Booker hit both of the technical free throws, Nurkic followed with his two free throws from Sengun's foul, and that pushed the Suns' lead to 99-84. The Rockets would cut the lead to four with 16.9 seconds left, but Royce O'Neale hit two free throws to end the threat.

Jalen Green led Houston with 34 points. Fred VanVleet added 21. The Rockets connected on just 11 of 45 3-pointers and shot 33.3% from the field overall, which was their worst percentage of the season.

“It wasn't one of our better nights as far as guys getting open looks and making the extra pass,” Rockets coach Ime Udoka said. “We had a few guys who had it going, but a few guys who were struggling.”

Phoenix has won seven of its past 10 — and nine in a row at home — as it tries to stay in the top six of the Western Conference playoff race and avoid the play-in tournament. The sliding Rockets have lost eight of 10.

“We're getting confident in this building,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said.

Booker's big first quarter pushed the Suns to a 33-17 lead. The four-time All-Star made 8 of 10 shots from the field, including a 33-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds.

Phoenix settled for a 64-53 halftime lead. Booker had 26 points before the break while Green led Houston with 21.

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