WESTBROOK WILL MISS GAME 5

Let's discuss how Russell Westbrook could impact the Thunder series

Russell Westbrook
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After the Rockets lost two tough games back-to-back, they were exposed late in 3rd and 4th quarters as well. As the Rockets were triumphant in game 1 and 2, they have been outscored 119-98 in the second half. The Rockets need Russell Westbrook so they can close games out. The Oklahoma City Thunder now have life.

The Rockets are in trouble because of the shorter bench. Ben McLemore's defense has been frantic inside of defensive schemes and man-to-man coverage. That has caused his minutes to decrease for Mike D'Antoni. Austin Rivers has not scored since game 3, and that was only four points. The Rockets only rely on their 3-point shooting instead of points inside the paint. Luckily for the Rockets, Westbrook gets most of points inside the paint. Westbrook averages 60.8 percent inside the restricted area and 37.2 percent in the paint (Non-RA).

The Rockets do miss Westbrook's presence to create and apply consent pressure going to the basket. This allows the Rockets' shooters to get open for shooting attempts. If Westbrook does comeback soon, this can relieve the pressure on James Harden offensively, who has been guarded by Lu Dort, rookie from Arizona State. Harden has struggled possession wise against Dort by only shooting 23.5 percent against him.

Defense has been a problem for the Rockets as well, despite the Rockets being 4th in the Western Conference in team general defense. Dennis Schroeder has been averaging 30 points per game off the bench for the Thunder in the last two games. Chris Paul has awakened by averaging 26 points per game in the last two games as well. Those two have been the consistent force for the Thunder getting back in this series. Bringing Westbrook back will help the Rockets and allow Harden to not get in foul trouble.

"We needed better individual defensive efforts. They really had it going and they tried to spread us out and go 1-on-1. We scored enough and they continued to keep scoring," Eric Gordon on the Rockets' defense after their game 4 loss on Monday. "That's what it's going to come down to. Our defense needs to be better than today."

When Paul and Westbrook matchup on defense, Westbrook only allows Paul to shoot 25 percent against him. That could be a huge difference in this series. Westbrook was upgraded to questionable for game 5 on Wednesday.

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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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