Free NBA Picks: Blazers Will Extend Torrid Run Against Rockets

Jay Pryce

Thursday, February 25, 2016 12:46 PM GMT

Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016 12:46 PM GMT

The dissapointing Rockets look to slow down the red-hot Trail Blazers. Dwight Howard will have to have a big game if they are to pull off the upset. NBA Pick & analysis inside.

Houston Rockets (28-29 SU, 23-32-2 ATS)
The Rockets have split their only two games since the break, following its 117-114 defeat to the Jazz in overtime on Tuesday. They covered the spread in each though; only the second time the team has done so in back-to-back games on the road all season.

Defense, or lack there of, is Houston's big problem this season. And it particularly stinks on the road. Only the lowly Lakers, Bucks, and Suns have worst defensive efficiency numbers away from home than the Rockets' 110.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.

We mentioned in a recent futures article detailing underrated teams that the Rockets' woeful defense is at its worst against faster paced squads shooting well from the three-point area. The Trail Blazers 95.3 possessions per 48 minutes is right around the league average, but they are deadly from behind the arc, sinking 10.2 per game (fourth most in the NBA).

For the Rockets to pull off an upset, they'll need the mercurial Dwight Howard to be productive. Scoring 14.5 points per game, when he posts more than this away from the Toyota Center, the Rockets are 7-4 SU and ATS, putting up 109.8 points per game. When he goes below his average on the road, Houston slumps to a 2-11 SU and 2-10-1 against the NBA odds record, scoring just 103.6 a night. Howard has had some success against the Trail Blazers big men in the past, going 13-of-22 lifetime when one of their three centers (Plumlee, Davis, and Kaman) is the nearest defender. Howard has dropped 28, 17, and 7 points in the season's three prior matchups.

One short-term trend worth noting here is that since Christmas, the OVER is 19-5-2 in Rockets games. The defense allows 109.2 points per contest, and it has let foes exceed their projected team total in 17 of the contests.

 

Portland Trail Blazers (30-27 SU, 31-25-1 ATS)
Portland's offense is on fire. The Trail Blazers 118.2 points per 100 possessions is best in the NBA over the last five games, as it has rattled off three wins in a row following the All-Star weekend, including an eye-popping 137-105 triumph over the Warriors six days ago.

The Trail Blazers are one of the best teams over the last 45 days, going 15-3 SU and 13-5 ATS in their last 18 games. Defensively they are improving, yielding 100.7 points per game with a 45.2 opponent field goal percentage. The one stat that jumps out over the winning stretch is the higher rate of trunovers the team is forcing, up to 15.1 per game versus 11.7 prior. Generating extra scoring chances are deadly for a team like the Trail Blazers, In nine games since Thanksgiving versus teams with a poor assist-to-turnover ratio of less than 1.5, Portland is outscoring opponents 112.2 to 104.6 at the Moda Center, taking the ball away 14.2 times per night. It has gone over its team total in all but one game. Houston's 1.33 assists-to-turnover ratio is fourth worst in the NBA.

Regular readers of my previews will be familiar with my penchant for looking closely at PG Damian Lillard (25.1 ppg), SG C.J. McCollum (21.1 ppg) and SG Allen Crabbe's (10.9 ppg) matchups for the night, the team’s three top scorers. When the trio scores above their combined average (57.1) in a gmae, the Blazers are 16-8 ATS, jumping to 110.4 points per game. They've surpassed their team total projection in 22 of the 24 games, pushing the OVER game total to a record of 20-3-1. Scoring below their combined average, the team is 10-14 ATS with a 97.8 scoring average. The UNDER is 19-5 and they've failed to hit their team total in 14 games. The backcourt put up 57 and 50 combined in the previous two meetings against Houston, but the Rockets enter this matchup allowing the fourth best field goal percentage to guards in their last 10 games at 40.9 percent.

 

Final Analysis
Dating back to last season, the Trail Blazers are 18-1 SU and 14-5 ATS in the Moda Center when squaring off against teams allowing 103.5 points or more per night. Putting up 118.4 points per contest over the last five games, is Houston the team to slow them down? Doubtful. Trail Blazers -4.5 is the NBA pick.

 

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NBA Pick: Blazers -4.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

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