It might not have been the prettiest day of basketball, but the NBA did at least deliver a handful of competitive and compelling games on Christmas Day. The highlight was supposed to be the long awaited Cavaliers and Warriors Finals rematch (preview?). The game was competitive and interesting, but certainly not even close to as well as either team can play. Both shot poorly, and while some credit can be given to the opposing defenses, it would be a tad ambitious to say either team “solved” the other – it was simply a less-than-great performance by both teams. Even worse, we came up one point shot of a 2-0 NBA sweep.
We nailed the second game with room to spare as the Rockets, as predicted, continued their solid play and derailed the steamrolling Spurs in Houston. Does this signal that the Rockets are back as Western Conference contenders? I’m not sure I’d go that far, but knocking off the Spurs is always a pretty good start. The Thunder also took an interested step backwards as the big-game Bulls went into OKC and knocked off the Thunder.
Today nearly every NBA team is back in action, so there are a TON of games to choose from on today’s slate. Let’s see if we can get back to our winning ways and notch a nice winning pick.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans -1
There is pretty solid wisdom in NBA wagering that say do NOT bet on a team playing on the road on the back end of the back to back. However, tonight looks like a rare exception to me. For starters, both teams played last night, and while the Pelicans game was much earlier in the day, they did go to overtime in a loss to Miami. Meanwhile, the Rockets have finally started to click and, as difficult as it is to trust this team, I don’t think they give up all the great momentum yesterday built with a lackluster effort against a struggling Pelicans squad.
Dwight Howard seems to be waking up and getting back to a near All-Star level that he has played at most of his entire career. Add in the defensive presence of Clint Capella and it could very well be a tough day for Anthony Davis. He will still get his stats, but he is going to have to really work for it.
That could be bad news for the Pels. It is pretty much Antony Davis and others at this point. He is the first, second and third option. Meanwhile, the Rockets are getting contributions from a lot of other sources and Harden is leading the charge much more efficiently than in the first month of the season.
It all boils down to having the confidence to back a road team on the second game of a back-to-back. I am going to take that leap with the surging Rockets. James Harden is one of the best scorers on the league on short rest, averaging 33.4 points on back-to-back games. Add his production to a defense that has gotten stingy – allowing less than 92 points in their last five games, and it comes up a Rockets winner.