Bet Clippers -5 Over Rockets for NBA Picks

Jason Lake

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 1:29 PM GMT

The Houston Rockets are one of the hottest teams in basketball, but on Wednesday, they have to play the beefed-up Los Angeles Clippers in La-La Land, with the Clippers getting 5.5 points on the NBA lines.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to February 25 inclusive:

69-54-1 ATS

18-14 Totals

Be sure to read our NBA Picks of the Day article for more free plays

Everybody loves the little guys in the NBA. But only one player 5-foot-9 or shorter ever made the Hall of Fame, or even appeared in an All-Star Game: Calvin Murphy, point guard for the Houston Rockets in the 1970s. Basketball is a tall person’s game. The basket is 10 feet off the ground, so if your team doesn’t have enough quality bigs, you’re going to have a hard time playing the game.

This year’s version of the Rockets (39-18 SU, 30-25-2 ATS) has plenty of big men – and now that they’re all relatively healthy, Houston is on a big-time roll at 10-1 SU and 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games. However, on Wednesday, they’ll have to play the Los Angeles Clippers (39-20 SU, 33-26 ATS), who have imported some extra frontcourt beef of their own. L.A. has opened as a 5.5-point chalk on the NBA odds board with a massive total of 220.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":256671, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Obligatory Basketball Jones Reference

Houston’s conversion from intriguing 8-seed in last year’s playoffs to NBA championship contender began with the offseason signing of Dwight Howard (21.8 PER), still one of the very best centers in the game despite nine-plus years of wear-and-tear. But it hasn’t all been peaches and cream since Howard’s arrival. He didn’t blend very well with incumbent big man Omer Asik (11.3 PER), who ended up on the injured list on Dec. 2 with knee problems. The Rockets also lost center Greg Smith (14.0 PER) for all but 11 games due to his own knee issues. It’s been a rough ride at times this year for the short-handed Rockets.

Thank goodness for Terrence Jones (17.8 PER). The sophomore power forward from the Kentucky Wildcats joined the starting rotation six games into the regular season, and he’s used his 7-foot-2 wingspan to haul down 9.4 rebounds per 36 minutes to go along with his 15.0 points. Jones could still use some work on his shooting, especially at the free-throw line (56.8 percent), but you can’t have everything.

As for Asik, he rejoined the lineup on Feb. 8, and he’s turned out to be much more useful in a reserve role rather than clogging up the paint alongside Howard. Houston has also gotten good minutes from back-up PF Donatas Motiejunas (11.8 PER), who’s improved steadily this season after a rough start and several DNP-CDs. With all four of these bigs contributing, the Rockets are in great shape for a deep postseason run.

Shakes in the Knee Bone

But are they in great shape for Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)? Howard and Kings center DeMarcus Cousins collided knee-on-knee during the first quarter of Tuesday’s 129-103 victory for the Rockets (–4.5 away) and limped off the floor. He did manage to return in the second quarter and finish the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds, complementing James Harden (21.9 PER) and his 43-point explosion. But Howard is considered day-to-day with that bruised knee and might not suit up at the Stapler.

Meanwhile, the Clippers are expected to debut their latest upgrade: Glen Davis (13.9 PER), who reached a buyout agreement with the Orlando Magic and signed with L.A. on Monday. Davis played his best basketball as an “energy” guy off the bench with the Boston Celtics, and he’ll be in that role again on Wednesday under his former coach, Doc Rivers. This addresses one of the few weaknesses in the Clippers rotation, and with a potentially hobbled Howard and the Rockets playing on zero days of rest, Davis just might be the difference-maker when it comes to beating the NBA odds in this matchup.

NBA Pick: Take the Clippers –5 (–104) at Marathon