Utah (50-32 SU, 44-36-2 ATS) at Houston (53-29 SU, 40-39-3 ATS)
Sunday, 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT
Free NBA Pick: Over
Recommended Sportsbook: 5Dimes
There’s a lot of buzz around Sunday’s opening game between the Utah Jazz and the Houston Rockets. This should be a hell of a matchup; as we discussed in our preview of the series price, the Jazz should have some betting value here, given their defensive prowess. But the opening NBA odds for Game 1 were right on the mark: Houston opened at –5.5, exactly where the projections at FiveThirtyEight have them.
So we move on to the total, and this is where things get really spicy. Sunday’s total opened at 219 points, and the sharps jumped on that right away, driving it down as low as 213.5 as we go to press. Makes a lot of sense, for all the reasons we’ve already talked about. But now that they’ve gone all the way down to 213.5 points, it makes sense to step in and take the ‘over’ instead. In theory, you could even wait for a lower total, but we’ll leave that up to you.
We’ve got the numbers to back us up – at least for Game 1. Jeff Sagarin’s projections for Sunday’s game are already available at The USA Today, and he’s got this matchup ending at 217.53 points, giving us plenty of profit margin to take the ‘over’ at 213.5. By the way, Sagarin also projects Houston at –3.54 against the spread, so maybe there’s still some value on the Jazz after all.
We’ll stick with that total for our NBA picks. We probably would have recommended going ‘under’ 219 points at the open, and that indeed appears to have been the sharp choice, with two-thirds of early bettors on the consensus reports at press time. But after this feeding frenzy, we’ve got a lot more profit margin on our hands with the ‘over’ at 213.5. Plus, if this game is even closer than it looks, as per Sagarin’s projections, that makes overtime more likely.
Injury-wise, the Rockets are healthy going into Game 1, and the Jazz are getting there: Kyle Korver (plus-0.1 OBPM, minus-1.0 DBPM) is listed as questionable, although he got in a partial practice on Saturday and might be good to go after missing the past six games with a sore knee. Ricky Rubio (minus-0.6 OBPM, plus-0.6 DBPM) and Raul Neto (minus-1.0 OBPM, minus-0.6 DBPM) are both considered probable after practicing in full. This is going to be a heck of a series, so grab a frosty beverage, enjoy the basketball, and may the sphere be with you.