The Houston Rockets made a statement in game one of this second-round series in the NBA’s Western Conference. Houston dominated the first half of the game against Utah, to the tune of a twenty-five-point halftime lead. They coasted in the second half and still won the game by fourteen points. It felt like Houston could do whatever it wanted in this game. It was a bad sign for Utah as they are trying to throw a wrench into the Western Conference playoff picture and delay what has seemed inevitable all season long, the Rockets meeting up with the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets are once again huge home favorites, laying -11 points. The game total over-under is set at 206.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:00 PM PST from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
The Houston Rockets were tied with the Toronto Raptors for the best home record in the league at 34-7 in the regular season. They have been the elite of the elite at home all year long and haven’t lost a game in the postseason yet on their home floor. They are trying to avoid what happened to Toronto last night when the Raptors lost game one at home to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They say a playoff series doesn’t really get started until the home teams lose a game, will we see this series start tonight in Houston?
In short? No. No, we won’t. I just don’t see any way that the Rockets lose tonight at home. They are just way too good in general and much too good at home to lose this game. Now that we have that decided, the questions is, can they cover that jumbo spread of eleven points? It felt like Houston could have won game one by forty points if they really wanted to. They toyed with the Jazz in the first half and ended the game shooting an absurd 53% from the land of three. They only won by fourteen points because they only wanted to win by fourteen points.
Generally, the home team favorites tend to always play well in game one. Very rarely, Toronto last night being the outlier, do we see a big upset in game one of a series where the home team is heavily favored. If we do see the home team drop a game as big favorites in the series, it is usually later in the series. Many times, a team dominating like Houston did in game one, can lull a team into a sense of security where they feel like they can’t lose. This is the NBA, everyone can lose on a given night. If you go into a game thinking otherwise you are going to end up like Toronto and give away your home court advantage.
The only reason I like Utah to cover this number tonight is that the Rockets don’t need to win by double-digits. They already asserted their dominance in game one, and if they get out to another big lead in game two, I expect them to rest their guys again. If you told Houston they had to win this game by twenty-five points to advance, I think they could do it. But they don’t. And they know the NBA playoffs are a marathon, not a sprint. In game one Chris Paul played only 31 minutes, Capela and Harden played just 35 and 36 minutes respectively.
If the Rockets get out to another big lead I could see those numbers, go down even further. This series is all about getting the job done and taking care of business, but more importantly, staying healthy for the showdown looming with Golden State in the next round. So, while I think the Rockets are clearly capable of blowing the Jazz out in this game, I am not completely sure that they will.
Houston had a scare in their first-round series with the Minnesota Timberwolves on their home floor, so they aren’t invincible at home. This feels like the Rockets will have a comfortable lead most of the game and coast in for another win tonight. But failing to cover the huge eleven-point spread. We saw it last night when the Golden State Warriors were double-digit favorites and failed to cover. Eleven points is a big number to cover in the playoffs when both teams are going to be playing hard. So, while I think the Rockets could cover, I don’t think they will tonight.
Give me the Utah Jazz getting eleven points tonight on the road in game two!