The Houston Rockets put another one in the bank Sunday night as they chase down the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Will the NBA odds be kind to them on Monday when they visit the Charlotte Hornets?
Jason’s record as of Apr. 12: 69-68-5 ATS, 8-13 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML
It wasn’t the kind of season the Charlotte Hornets were hoping for. They won’t make the playoffs in their first year under their new/old name, and it looks like they’ll play out the string without four of their most important players. That includes Monday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET) against the Houston Rockets, who are in a heated three-way race for first place in the Southwest Division and the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.
The Rockets won’t be at full capacity, either. They’ll have to make do without two of their starters from here on out: point guard Patrick Beverley (wrist) and big man Donatas Motiejunas (back). Houston still held on to beat the New Orleans Pelicans (+5 away) 121-114 on Sunday and improve to 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS over the past five games. We formed this NBA pick before the odds had been released for this matchup.
Four off the Floor
That probably won’t stop us from fading the Hornets (33-47 SU, 37-41-2 ATS) down the stretch. With the playoffs no longer in sight, Charlotte has punted three straight games SU and ATS, all while missing the services of the following four players:
Al Jefferson (19.7 PER, knee)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (15.1 PER, ankle)
Cody Zeller (14.1 PER, shoulder)
Lance Stephenson (8.8 PER, toe)
That’s a pretty tough obstacle to overcome. These are four of Charlotte’s best defensive players; even with the miserable season Stephenson has had since joining the club in the offseason, he was good for a plus-0.6 DBPM. And yet the UNDER went 2-0-1 during these last three games. The remaining Hornets couldn’t score more than 80 points in any of them. You can add one more to the pile, as P.J. Hairston (9.1 PER, knee) was hurt in Sunday’s 116-77 loss to the Detroit Pistons (–8.5 at home). Tag ‘em and bag ‘em.
Losing two quality players isn’t helping the Rockets, either, but they have the depth to deal with it. There’s no shortage of big men now that Dwight Howard (18.9 PER) and Terrence Jones (17.9 PER) have both returned from injury. And while Pablo Prigioni (10.3 PER) is the only proper point guard left on the roster, James Harden (26.7 PER) is the one handling the ball anyway. He scored 30 points with seven assists in Sunday’s win over New Orleans, ho hum.
That victory ties Houston (54-26 SU, 47-33 ATS) with the Memphis Grizzlies in the Southwest, half a game behind the San Antonio Spurs. The Rox and Grizz each have a game in hand on San Antonio. There’s no way to tell which team will land in which spot come playoff time; in theory, the Rockets would love to avoid the Spurs after dropping back-to-back games to them last week. Beating the Hornets could help or hinder Houston’s cause, depending on how things shake out.
Who’s Got Next?
So is Harden your choice for MVP this year? He makes a strong case, but the NBA odds suggest that Stephen Curry wrapped this one up a while ago. Curry was a 1-4 favorite on Bovada’s futures NBA odds market back on Apr. 2, with Harden priced at 3-1. That MVP prop isn’t available as we go to press – it might have been taken off the board permanently.
Oh well. We’re happier investing our money by fading the Hornets in Monday’s game, anyway. There is the possibility that Charlotte could come out with some verve; this is their home finale, so it’s kind of like Senior Day in college. Maybe Michael Jordan will be there to inspire his team. Is he allowed to sign a 1-day contract? No? We’ll take our chances, then.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets at Pinnacle