An all-Texas battle headlines Thursday's slate in the Association, as the Rockets and Mavs clash in Dallas. And we found a lean on both the side and total. So we'll play a two-pick hook 'em for our Plays of the Day for Thursday.
Houston and the Mavericks are both headed for the playoffs, and could meet in the opening round, if the cards fall right down the stretch. But the Rockets are playing for good seeding in the upcoming postseason, while the Mavs are almost locked into their spot. Currently the Mavs are listed as short favores on the NBA odds.
Lone Star Showdown
Houston's James Harden just enhanced his case for winning the MVP award, throwing in 51 points in a 115-111 victory over Sacramento Wednesday night. The Rockets led that game by 19 points in the second quarter, allowed the Kings to get with two points with about six minutes to go, then held on from there. But in letting Sacramento come back Houston came up short of covering the spread as a 10-point favorite.
Just prior to that the Rockets lost at Toronto Monday night 99-96; but just before that they had won four in a row. So Houston is 8-2 SU, 6-4 ATS over its last 10 games.
Dallas just snapped a two-game losing streak with a 135-131 victory at Oklahoma City Wednesday night. The Mavs shot a hot 62 percent from the floor, making 56 field goals, which is a ton for one NBA game. They also only turned the ball over six times.
However, in our minds a crazy hot-shooting performance like that often sets a team up for a fade play its next time out.
Just before that Dallas lost at Indiana 104-99, and just before that they lost at San Antonio 94-76. In fact, the Mavs are only 2-4 SU over their last six games, 2-6 ATS over their last eight.
Big-picture, at 51-24 Houston sits in a tie for second place in the Western Conference standings with Memphis. Neither can catch Golden State, which has clinched the top seed for the playoffs, but three other teams lurk within 2.5 games of them. A couple of bad nights, and “help” from elsewhere, and the Rockets could find themselves on the road to begin the postseason.
Meanwhile, at 46-29 Dallas sits in seventh place in the West, three games behind sixth-place San Antonio, and four games ahead of eighth-place Oklahoma City, with just seven games to play. So the Mavs are almost locked into the seven spot. They could catch the Spurs, but probably not, the way San Antonio is playing, so their main goal at the moment is to just stay ahead of the Thunder in the battle to avoid the Warriors in the first round.
Houston leads the season series at the moment two games to one. The Rockets beat Dallas at home back in November 95-92, then did it again at home in January 99-94, before the Mavs beat Houston in Big D in February 111-110. Houston won that first meeting as a four-point underdog on the road, then covered the second meeting as a four-point favorite at home. Dallas then covered the third meeting as a three-point favorite.
Also, all three of those games stayed UNDER their totals, at 205, 210 and 212. In fact, those first two meetings played UNDER by a bunch.
Tonight's Betting Line
As of early Thursday morning most books were chalking Dallas at either -1.5 or -2, with little movement. However, the total, which started off at right around 208.5 at most shops, had risen to 210 and 210.5.
On the injury front Houston C Dwight Howard has missed recent action with a sore knee, but he is expected to play tonight.
Houston comes into this game the hotter team, and the better team. Plus, Harden is awfully tough to stop right now. We like the Rockets to win this game outright.
Also, these two teams are a combined 82-67 on the UNDERS this season, and as mentioned above the first three meeting this season have all played UNDER. Perhaps tonight's total is a little inflated. .