Busy NBA betting schedule on Monday's Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, which means an unusual amount of early-starting NBA games. Here's our free pick for Rockets vs. Pacers.
Pacers Are Sliding
Indiana enters on a four-game losing streak and lost 80-71 in overtime at Charlotte on Saturday against former Pacer Lance Stephenson. The combined 151 points were the fewest in an overtime game in the shot-clock era. Charlotte managed to win despite shooting just 30.7 percent. Indiana's 20 turnovers certainly helped as they were a season high. Roy Hibbert had 12 points and 14 rebounds for the 100th double-double of his career.
So the Pacers look to avoid their third five-game skid of the season. The last time Indiana suffered three losing streaks of at least five games came during the 2007-08 season. If this is a close game, then hope your money is on Houston. Indiana is just 2-9 in games decided by three points of fewer this season. The nine losses are the most in one-possession games in the NBA.
The Pacers have played without starting point guard George Hill for the past eight games due to a left groin strain and he likely won't be back for this one, either. He averages 14.2 points per game and is a very good defensive player. Hill has been practicing so even if he doesn't play Monday it could be soon.
The Pacers are 21-18-3 against the NBA betting spread this season and 23-18-1 'over/under.'
Rockets Licking Their Wounds
It will be interesting to see if the Rockets are flat here as they come off one of their worst losses of the season in one of their biggest games: 131-106 at home to Golden State on Saturday. Golden State's 64 first-half points were the second-most Houston has allowed before halftime this season and the Warriors' 38 points in the third were the most the Rockets have allowed in a quarter. The Warriors were up 38-16 at the half, the most points allowed by Houston in any quarter to that point in the season. The Warriors’ 54.9 percent shooting was the best against the Rockets this year with their 32 assists the most for any Rockets opponent. But then the Warriors tend to do that to teams. Houston is now 5-9 this year when trailing at halftime.
Dwight Howard led Houston with 23 points and 10 rebounds while NBA scoring leader James Harden (26.6 points per game) was held to just 12. That was his third-fewest of the season and the fewest he has scored at home. The Rockets’ seven 3-pointers were just one more than their fewest of the season. No team lives and dies by the 3-pointer like the Rockets as their 33.6 attempted per game is by far No. 1 and more than six more than second-place Portland.
Houston has played without forward Terrence Jones since early November due to a leg injury but he's in the final stages of his rehab and close to returning. He was a starter but now might find himself behind both Donatas Motiejunas and Josh Smith. Howard is listed as probable with a sprained right knee, but he's pretty much always listed that way.
Houston is 23-18 against the spread and 18-23 'over/under' on NBA odds.
Before placing your NBA pick for this match, do keep in mind that this is the first of two meetings this season between the teams. They split blowout victories last season, which really doesn't mean much considering Indiana was a much better team then with Paul George. The Pacers, who finished with the East's best record last year, suffered their worst loss of last season in Houston, 112-86. The Rockets blew it open by outscoring Indiana 38-16 in the third quarter.
NBA Free Picks: Houston -10 on NBA odds and 'over' 198.5 points at BetOnline. Indiana is 0-6 against the spread in its past six games. Houston has covered four straight after a loss. The 'over' is 4-0 in Houston's past four and 6-2 in Indiana's past eight after a loss.