NBA Picks: Grab the Points & Expect Road Dog Mavs To Cover vs. Rockets

Sterling Xie

Sunday, January 24, 2016 2:27 PM UTC

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 2:27 PM UTC

In a battle of two Texas playoff teams, the Dallas Mavericks look like a solid NBA pick to steal a win at the Toyota Center over Houston. Don't miss our betting preview for this game.

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Free NBA Pick: Mavericks +3
Best Line Offered: at Ladbrokes


Mavericks vs. Rockets Odds Overview
In the surprisingly thin Western Conference, the Houston Rockets have disappointed as much as any expected preseason contender. Last year's conference finalists got off to a staggering start which cost head coach Kevin McHale his job, and though they briefly surged under interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the Rockets have since lost three of five. Houston currently sits at 23-22, and has not beaten a team with a winning record in nearly two weeks, when they won at Memphis.

Conversely, the Dallas Mavericks have continued to overachieve despite preseason consensus that they would slip into the lottery. The Mavs have been more uneven since the calendar flipped to 2016, but still sit at 25-20, good for sixth place in the West. Dallas and Houston met twice in the first six weeks of the season, with the Mavericks winning 110-98 in Houston before the Rockets returned the favor with a 100-96 win at American Airlines Center.

NBA odds boards show the Rockets as 1.5-point favorites in this contest, which opens the door for bettors in a game pitting two teams with wildly different success ATS. The Mavericks are an impressive 27-18 ATS, with only the San Antonio Spurs eclipsing that .600 winning percentage. Conversely, Houston is an abysmal 18-27 ATS, 25th in the NBA. In looking at home-road splits, the Rockets are 10-15 ATS at home while the Mavericks are 13-11 ATS on the road, suggesting that location has not drastically affected either team's season-long performance.


Game Preview
Like many past Dirk Nowitzki teams, the Mavericks are a team characterized by their efficient shooting from all over the floor. According to tracking, Dallas is a top-12 shooting team in every range besides the mid-range (15-19 feet) and long threes (25-29 feet). However, Dallas attempts very few shots from either range, part of the reason why the Mavs are a top half offense in terms of both true shooting percentage (53.7 percent, 13th) and effective field goal percentage (49.6 percent, 15th).

Of course, the Rockets are as skewed a team as any in the league in terms of their shot distribution, so this game likely boils down to Dallas' three-point prevention on defense. As is Daryl Morey's want, Houston attempts the fewest 15-19 foot shots in the league, while attempting the fifth-most shots from right around the normal three-point range (20-24 feet). The Mavs are a middling team in defending that area of the court, as opponents shoot 37.6 percent against Dallas from that range, a figure which ranks 16th. 

However, it could be tougher for the Rockets to generate the transition looks they need to keep their offense humming with Dwight Howard likely out while nursing a minor ankle injury. According to Basketball-Reference, Houston's four most common lineups each involve Howard. The fifth, with Clint Capela in for Howard while surrounding starters James Harden, Patrick Beverley, Trevor Ariza and reserve Terrance Jones, is a terrible rebounding lineup. That five-man grouping has been outrebounded by an average of 7.1 boards per 100 possessions. The next most common lineup without Howard, a small-ball grouping of Harden, Ariza, Capela, Marcus Thornton and Ty Lawson, has been outrebounded by 5.0 rebounds per 100 possessions. No matter how you slice it, Houston won't have its usual advantage on the boards without Howard.


Betting Analysis
Dallas rarely turns over the ball (13.2 turnovers per game, third in the league), so Houston's transition opportunities will likely be limited. The Mavs may choose to give starting center ZaZa Pachulia extended minutes to ensure an advantage on the boards, but if need be, Dallas can sub in Dwight Powell's inside-out skills in the frontcourt and match Houston's speed on the perimeter. Pachulia can gum up Dallas' spacing, but with the historically difficult-to-defend Nowitzki pick-and-rolls looming against the league's 23rd-ranked defense by points per 100 possessions, the Mavs shouldn't have issues generating clean looks.

Few would have expected the Mavericks to emerge as the second-best team in the state, but the Rockets have yet to show signs of a sustained turnaround towards championship contender status. On Sunday night, expect Dallas to again hold the upper hand and cover the spread as slight road underdogs.

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