We missed by a bucket last night as the Nets sputtered in the second half en route to a 14 point loss to the Detroit Pistons. Andre Drummond continued his one-man assault on the NBA with 23 points and 11 rebound, which is actually well-below his league leading rebound average. Detroit continues the Eastern Conference’s ebb and flow; one minute you are the fourth seed, the next week you are out of the playoffs. For now, it is Detroit ebbing back into the picture while Boston and Charlotte fade a bit. You bet is as good as anyone else’s for who spots 6-12 will end up belonging to. I’d wager confidently that Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Toronto and Atlanta make the playoffs, with some shakeup in seed two to five. From there? I’d lean Indiana, Boston and Detroit, but if Charlotte can get healthy or the Knicks or Magic stay hot, who knows…
I do know we need to get a win tonight to salvage a back and forth win/loss week of NBA picks, so let’s see if we can cap off the weekend with a winning pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets -1.5
The Rockets have been a mixed bag this season. One minute, I’m ready to completely write them off and bury them all together, like during last week’s defensively-indifferent four game losing streak. The next minute, they win a home and home against Utah and you realize in their last ten games they own wins over the Clippers and Spurs. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this team.
Tonight, they face the possibility of not having Dwight Howard in action (keep an eye on this throughout the day if you like this game as a play, it will likely move the line) and they are hosting a team that has played smothering defense since the start of 2016. Howard could very well play, but regardless the Pacers seem to have awoken and re-found their defensive identity, holding teams to 37.6% shooting over their last four games. They have been sloppy with the ball to counteract that improvement a little bit, averaging 19 turnovers, but I expect them to be a little cleaner against the defensively-lax Rockets.
Ty Lawson will be out also as he finished his three-game suspension, so the Rockets will have limited point guard depth. Expect James Harden’s usage rate to be even more astronomical than usual, which isn’t a bad thing for Houston. However, expect Paul George to dig in and try to solidify his reputation as one of the best two-way players in the NBA by limiting the reigning player’s vote MVP’s effectiveness.
I like a good game, but lean towards the Pacers playing enough defense and hitting enough shots against the Rockets to win a third straight road game. Indiana is one of the better wagers in the NBA this season at 21-15 ATS, while Houston is one of the worst at 14-23 ATS.
Free Pick: Indiana Pacers +1.5 (or +105 moneyline if you are willing to give back the point)