We notched our second straight NBA cover with a little help from Ryan Anderson in overtime. The sharp-shooter struggled in regulation but found the range in overtime scoring eight points and pushing the Pelicans to a five-point home win.
In other NBA action, if you stayed up for the end of the Warriors vs. Mavericks game, you got a treat. Dallas had the game under control the entire second half until a furious Warriors rally was capped by a Steph Curry pump-faked, step-through, game-winner with 1.3 seconds to go. It was a thrilling reminder of how dangerous Golden State can be in the playoffs, assuming they get there, with their ability to go solar-hot and blister the nets like no other team in the league. It was great stuff to see unfold live.
OK, it’s Thursday, which means it’s a pretty limited slate of NBA action. I generally feel a little more confident in my picks when I have a nice big pile of games to sort through to find the weakest and most advantageous line – when there is only two, you have to be a little more discerning. I don’t think either game is a gimme tonight, but there is one line I like and will have a small play going tonight.
Let’s dig into tonight’s free pick.
Houston Rockets at Portland Trailblazers -3 (Total: 212.5)
There may not be many games on the NBA slate, but at least there is a fantastic one to cap it off. The Blazers are a fantastic 18-4 this season, and have only lost two games at home. One of those was earlier this season, 116-101, to the Houston Rockets. They’ll get a chance to avenge the loss tonight, and I think they’ll come out sharp.
Houston has won two games in a row and seven of their last nine. The concern of whether Harden and Howard can play together has very quietly started to go away; sometimes that is how it is with media-driven stories – they are fun to talk about until they aren’t anymore. That seems to be the case here. You aren’t hearing a lot of “you know, Houston could win this thing” stories but you aren’t hearing about the drama either. That’s a good thing if you are a Rocket fan.
Statistically, both teams are fantastic. The Rockets are averaging a league-high 107.5 points per game. Portland is a third best +9.3ppg differential. It seems like that would be a good recipe for a high-scoring affair. And it very well might be, but at 212.5 it’s a pretty high total to get over from a wagering perspective.
Tonight has a “big-game” feel to it. Big games tend to bring out a little better defensive effort in NBA teams. I’ll bank on just enough defense to keep this total under the 212 threshold.