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Rockets vs. Raptors Pick NBA – January 8th

The Pacers rolled last night, continuing their home dominance and furthering the Knicks road miseries and earning us an easy second straight victory. We will try to cap off a winning week in the NBA tonight (and build on a nice 6-0 ATS NBA/NCAA combined weekend) with one more winner tonight.

It’s NFL playoff Sunday, so NBA and College Hoops get pushed to the background, but with Houston at Toronto and Utah at Memphis, it’s worth giving a glance over to the professional hardwood this evening.  Memphis is fresh off one of the most exciting (and surprising) victories of the season with their stunning fourth quarter in Oracle and Houston vs. Toronto is just flat-out good hoops.

Today’s Free Pick:

Houston Rockets -2.5 at Toronto Raptors

This game is really interesting as two of the best teams in the NBA, and two of the best team ATS, matchup in a really awesome matchup.  I’ll admit, you have to be an NBA fan to get how great this matchup really is – casual fans will say “Rockets v. Raptors?  What are you so jazzed about?”  But US, me and you, we GET IT.  This game is sincerely awesome.

The Rockets enter today winners of 17 of 19 games, with the presumptive league MVP, and with the most efficient offense in the league this side of Golden State and… yup.  Toronto.  The Rockets are 3rd with 112.3.  The Raps are 2nd at 113.0.  The accomplish things differently, as Houston ranks 5th in assist ratio, while Toronto ranks 29th.  A stat like that would usually bother me, but with both DeRozan and Lowry being so effective off the dribble, there are a lot of shots that happen after two or three dribbles which steals assists.  This isn’t a new phenomenon; Toronto has been the second best team in the East for three years running, so a stat that usually bothers me doesn’t in this rare instance.  Houston ranks 2nd in true shooting percentage and the Raptors are tied for fourth, proving they are still getting quality, efficient shots.  It is made EVEN MORE impressive by the fact they are getting this efficient true shooting despite a preponderance of midrange jumpers by DeRozan, long considered the enemy of TS%.

OK, that might have been a bit too much stat mumbo-jumbo, and Charles Barkley has clicked on a new link.

The point: different approaches, similar excellent results.

The reason I go Houston in tonight’s matchup is a simple one.  Toronto played last night.  Houston did not.  Toronto is a solid 10-6-1 ATS at home.  Houston is a ridiculous 15-5 ATS on the road.  Toronto is 3-3 ATS on no rest.  Houston is 16-5 ATS on one day rest.  Houston is 12-3 ATS in their last five road games and Toronto is 2-5 ATS in their last seven overall.

Lastly, I just think Houston is the slightly better team with fresher legs after Toronto’s tough 123-118 overtime loss in Chicago last night.

Houston is so explosive, beating them on short rest seems really difficult.  It’s a narrow margin, but I’ll take the Rockets to continue building on some of the best ATS numbers in the last three seasons.

Free Pick:   Houston Rockets -2.5