NBA Pick: Count On Rockets To Fly Over LeBron-less Cavaliers

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 1:00 PM UTC

Tuesday, Mar. 29, 2016 1:00 PM UTC

The Cavaliers will be without LeBron James (rest) when the Rockets fly into Cleveland to take on the Eastern Conference leaders Tuesday night. Get your betting analysis and NBA betting picks here.

Houston Rockets (36-38 SU, 30-42-2 ATS)
The Rockets have endured one of the toughest schedules in the NBA over the last several weeks, dropping their last four away from home against the Hornets, Hawks, Thunder and Pacers. It doesn't get any easier tonight against the East-leading Cavaliers, even with LeBron James sitting out (rest).

The offense, which ranks fourth in the NBA in points per game with 105.9, has been far from efficient recently. In its last five games, Houston is scoring 103.8 points per 100 possessions, 25th in the league during this span. Coach J. B. Bickerstaff's squad had a particular tough night from downtown in its last outing, recording its second-lowest 3-point percentage in a game this season. Losing 104-101 to the Pacers, the team was 7 of 33 (21.2 percent) from behind the arc.

Defense is Houston's biggest problem this season. It particularly stinks on the road. Only the lowly Lakers, Suns, and Nets struggle with poorer efficiency away from home than the Rockets' 110.7 points allowed per 100 possessions.


Cleveland Cavaliers (52-21 SU, 33-37-3 ATS)
The Cavs aren't living up to some expectations this season, and James has been visibly frustrated for weeks by the team's inconsistent play. Losing 104-95 to the Nets as 8.5-point chalk on Thursday, the King took his disappointment out on the Knicks Saturday night, posting his 42nd career triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists in a 107-93 victory. It tops a stretch of four games where James is averaging 29 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists, following a private meeting with coach Tyronn Lue concerning leadership. The King, it appears, is stepping up for a championship run. Can the Cavs win without him tonight? The outlook is murky.

Since returning to Cleveland in 2014, the Cavs are 4-12 SU and 1-14-1 ATS when LeBron fails to log a minute of game time. They lose by 10.3 points per game in this situation, tipping off as 1.8-point dogs on average. The team's scoring margin over the last two seasons when the King plays is 6.6 to the good.

Cleveland is 30-6 SU at home this season and 18-2 SU versus teams with a negative average scoring margin on the season like the Rockets (-0.9). Beating the NBA Odds have been a challenge though. One scenario where the Cavs show promise covering the spread is when up against teams allowing a lot of treys. Both Houston (31.8) and Cleveland (31.4) rank in the NBA's top five in points from threes per game. When up against a defense allowing 8.3 or more from behind the arc per contest, the Cavs are 11-6 ATS on their home hardwood, draining 12.1 per night for 108.9 points. Versus less, their three pointers slip to 8.8 in total for 104.4 points per game; Cleveland is 6-12-1 ATS in theses contests. The Rockets allow 9.6 three-pointers per game, only Sacramento (10.2) yields more.

For bettors playing the total, take this into consideration: the UNDER is 16-6 when Irving nets less than 20 points on the evening; 8-16 with 20 or more. In five career meetings against Houston, the three-time All Star averages 26.6 points per game, posting more than 20 in each. In addition to Irving's potential production pushing the score up, the Cavs have surpassed the total in 10 of 13 meetings against Western Conference teams at Quicken Loans Arena this season by an average of 8.1 points.


Final Analysis
We backed the Rockets against the Pacers last time out with the belief they presented a myriad of matchup problems for Indiana. Harden and crew made it interesting late, but failed to seal the deal despite capturing the lead in the final two minutes. We're intrigued to jump on board again with the betting market consistently underestimating the King's worth. Reserve guard Iman Shumpert may also miss the contest after sitting out of practice yesterday due to a sore left knee. Make the Rockets +110 on the money line as your NBA Pick to handle the short-staffed Cavs.  

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Free NBA Pick:  Rockets +115
Best Line Offered:  at 5Dimes

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