Friday's NBA playoff action: What bettors need to know

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets (-1, 206.5)
Oklahoma City leads series 3-2.

The Houston Rockets were all but given up on when they lost the first three games of their Western Conference playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Now Houston can even the best-of-7 series with a home win on Friday and put itself in position to become the first team to overcome a 0-3 deficit and win a playoff series. All the pressure is on the top-seeded Thunder, who are struggling without standout point guard Russell Westbrook.

Oklahoma City appeared headed to a four-game sweep of the Rockets. Westbrook was lost for the season with a knee injury in Game 2 and then the Rockets staved off elimination with an impressive Game 4 victory. Another Houston win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday has created a lot of anxious moments for the Thunder. “We have good players that have been through this before,” Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks said Thursday. “We know we have to play better. But we also know we’re up 3-2.” The eighth-seeded Rockets remain focused on making history after the back-to-back victories. “In our minds, still nobody’s giving us a shot,” forward Chandler Parsons said. “But it doesn’t really matter. It matters what we believe in that locker room and that we believe in ourselves.”

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Fox Sports Oklahoma, Comcast SportsNet Houston

ABOUT THE THUNDER: Durant is averaging 38.3 points in three games since Westbrook was injured and Oklahoma City needs someone else to step up and help him carry the load. Durant tallied 36 points in Game 5 but was scoreless in the final quarter, a stanza in which Westbrook typically does a lot of the scoring. Durant is averaging 33.6 points but was just 1-for-8 from 3-point range in the Game 5 loss. “They don’t really care about anybody else on the team,” Durant said of Houston’s defensive strategy. “So when I have the ball, there’s like four guys guarding me sometimes and I’ve just got to make the pass. We didn’t make shots (in Game 5) but I trust that we’re going to make those wide-open ones.”

ABOUT THE ROCKETS:
Houston standout James Harden scored 31 points and was 7-of-9 from 3-point range in Game 5 despite having a strep throat. The former Oklahoma City sixth man is averaging 26.4 points in the series. Forward Carlos Delfino and point guard Jeremy Lin are both questionable for Game 6. Delfino had his ailing left foot examined Thursday and his status will be firmed up in the hours before game time. “Carlos has got a lot of stuff going on in his foot,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “He’s got bone spurs, he’s got a little fracture of a bone spur.” Lin has missed the previous two games with a chest injury.

TRENDS
* Thunder are 6-1 ATS in their last seven road games.
* Rockets are 5-1 ATS in their last six games playing on one day rest.
* Under is 5-1 in Rockets last six.
* Underdog is 4-0 ATS in the last four meetings.

BUZZER BEATERS

 
1. Houston has made 26 3-pointers in the last two games.

2. Thunder G Kevin Martin, the key player Houston gave up in the deal for Harden, is shooting just 30.4 percent in the series after having just three points on 1-of-10 shooting in Game 5.

3. Rockets C Omer Asik averaged 19 points and 12.5 rebounds in the back-to-back victories.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Memphis Grizzlies (-6.5, 180)
Memphis leads series 3-2.

The Los Angeles Clippers won’t know until close to tipoff on Friday whether or not they will have All-Star forward Blake Griffin available for Game 6 of the Western Conference playoff series against the host Memphis Grizzlies. The Clippers need a victory to stay alive and the right ankle injury that forced Griffin to miss the final 17-plus minutes of Monday’s Game 5 could render him inactive for the pivotal tilt. Memphis has won the last three games.

The Grizzlies have climbed out of the hole prompted by losing the first two games. Each of their three consecutive victories have been by double digits and the inside combo of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have dominated the Clippers. Griffin isn’t the only ailing Los Angeles star. Point guard Chris Paul bruised his left thumb in Game 5 but plans to play through the pain as another loss will end the Clippers’ season. “Playing there on the road has been tough, but we’ve shown the ability to win there in the regular season,” Paul said after Thursday’s practice. “And now we’ve got to do it. Our backs are against the wall.”

TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2, Fox Sports West (Los Angeles), SportSouth (Memphis)

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS: Griffin was highly ineffective in Game 5 and had only four points in 19-plus minutes before leaving. He said after Thursday’s practice that the ankle was improving and remains hopeful he can play. “If I’m able to go and I’m able to help us, then it’s my job to go,” Griffin said. “I owe it to my teammates. If I make things a little worse and there’s no more season left, then it doesn’t really matter anyway because I’ll have a lot of time to rest and a lot of time to heal. As long as I can help my teammates and help us, then I’m going to play. That’s really the only way I’m looking at it.” Griffin is averaging 14 points and six rebounds in the series. Lamar Odom will move into the starting lineup if Griffin can’t play.

ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES: Randolph has been superb in the three consecutive victories by averaging 25.3 points and 10.3 rebounds. He averaged 13 points and six rebounds when Memphis lost the first two games. Gasol has averaged 22.5 points over the last two contests after failing to score more than 17 in any of the first three games. “I’ve been fortunate as a coach to have two premier post players,” Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins told reporters. “And we can go inside and they can play outside. Both of them can pass the ball and it’s a luxury not many coaches have and I’m thankful for that.” Point guard Mike Conley also is having a fine series with averages of 16.2 points and 8.6 assists.

TRENDS
* Clippers are 1-5 in their last six road games.
* Clippers are 0-4 in their last four games.
* Grizzlies are 4-1 in their last five home games.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings in Memphis.
* Under is 5-1 in Grizzlies last six home games.

BUZZER BEATERS

 
1. Los Angeles scored 112 points in its Game 1 victory and has averaged just 87.8 over the last four games.

2. Memphis F Tayshaun Prince has scored 15 points in each of the last two games after averaging just 3.3 over the first three outings.

3. Paul is averaging 21.8 points in the series after a 35-point effort in Game 5.

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