Sonics Travel to Houston

The Houston Rockets have already secured a playoff spot in perhaps the most competitive playoff race in NBA history, but star guard Tracy McGrady says the team's work is far from finished.

After clinching a postseason berth with a win in their last outing, McGrady and the Rockets hope to improve their playoff position as they host the last-place Seattle SuperSonics on Wednesday night.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Houston –16.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 194.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 58% of bets for this game have been placed on Houston –16.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

The top nine teams in the Western Conference are separated by only 7 1/2 games. Each of those teams will finish well above .500, but the one that finishes in ninth place will be headed to the lottery.

Houston (52-25) avoided that fate by beating the Los Angeles Clippers 105-79 on Sunday to clinch a playoff spot. Though making the postseason is a remarkable accomplishment for a team that lost Yao Ming - its leading scorer and rebounder - for the remainder of the season on Feb. 26, the Rockets aren't ready to call their season a success.

"We knew we were going to make the playoffs," said McGrady, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and nine assists Sunday. "What are we going to do when we get there? Clinching is pretty good, but it's not what we want to celebrate."

Sunday's victory was Houston's 52nd of the season, matching last season's total with five games remaining. The Rockets haven't won more games since they went 57-25 and advanced to the Western Conference finals in 1996-97. That was also the last season the team won a playoff series - the Rockets have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs five times since then.

A deep playoff run seemed unlikely when Yao went down, but the Rockets responded by winning their first 11 games to extend their win streak to 22 games - the second-longest in league history. They're hoping to surprise more people by ending their playoff drought, but not before closing the season strong.

"We've run the gamut of emotions this year," forward Shane Battier said told the Rockets' official Web site. "We're very, very happy to have clinched. We need to build momentum and feel good about ourselves before the playoffs start."

"Right now, we're playing OK. We need to ramp it up here over these next five games. We're playing well enough to win. But to beat the really good teams, we've got to play better."

The rebuilding SuperSonics (18-60) don't qualify as a really good team. They've lost 21 of their last 24 to fall into last place in the West, including a 99-83 defeat at Dallas on Tuesday night.

"I just didn't think we played very smart," Sonics coach P.J. Carlesimo said. "It was more of the offensive shot selection. We had too many possessions where we didn't get good shots. That hurt us more than anything else."

Sonics rookie Kevin Durant, shooting 49.8 percent from the field in his last 19 games, was just 2-for-17 in a 79-66 home loss to the Rockets on Friday. He missed his first eight attempts, and finished with a season-low four points.

In addition to being the lowest point total allowed by Houston, Seattle's 66 points were a season low and the third-lowest point total in franchise history.

"They're a good defensive team and when guys are not making shots, or are reluctant to shoot it, they just pack it in a little bit tighter," said Carlesimo of the Rockets, who have won six straight and 12 of the last 13 in the series.

Here are some top trends for tonight's matchup:

-HOUSTON is 21-9 ATS (+11.1 Units) second half of the season this season.

-HOUSTON is 19-8 ATS (+10.2 Units) after 3 or more consecutive wins this season.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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