Monday, 8 p.m. ET
Free NBA Pick: 76ers ATS
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
The Rockets appeared to be finally awakening from a season-long malaise when they cobbled together a streak that saw them victorious in 11 of 12 games over a three-week span beginning in mid-December. However, since their first game of this month, a 135-134 overtime thriller in Golden State, Houston has not deviated from a win one, lose one pattern. Since that shootout at the Oracle Arena on January 3, the Rockets have gone 5-4 straight up including a 138-134 overtime win against the Lakers on Saturday night. Incidentally, that was the second consecutive overtime game they played, having dropped a 145-142 overtime decision to the Nets just three days earlier. James Harden has been a scoring machine this season, having led his team in points in virtually every game he has started. Harden dropped 48 on the Lakers Saturday night and has averaged a staggering 35.7 points per game this year.
The Sixers are in search of an Eastern Conference title this season but they are currently sitting in fourth place behind Milwaukee, Toronto, and Indiana. On Saturday night the NBA odds board had installed them as 3 ½ to 4-point favorites over their guests from Oklahoma City but when the final buzzer sounded it was the Thunder that took home a 117-115 victory and cashing for all those who included OKC in their NBA picks both with the points and on the money line. Joel Embiid had 31 points in the loss and now has 20 games this season in which he has scored 30 or more points, making him the first 76er to accomplish that feat this early in the season since Allen Iverson.
The last time these teams tangoed was in October 2017 so it’s been a while. The Rockets were installed as seven-point home favorites on that night but the Sixers came away with a 115-107 win with Ben Simmons leading his team with 24 and Joel Embiid adding 22 of his own. Who else, but Harden led all scorers with 29 in the game? Houston may be 5-1 straight up against Philly over their last six meetings but the Sixers are 4-2 against the spread and should be in better shape than the Rockets on Monday night as they have not had two back-to-back overtime games and a total of three over the last three weeks if we include the OT win over the Warriors.
As prolific as Harden has been, the Rockets rank just 10th in scoring which is fine but it illustrates the one-dimensional attack of the Rockets and if Harden has an off night or is lost to injury, there is no one on that roster who can duplicate his efforts. Perhaps nobody in the league for that matter. The Sixers should be able to own the glass with Embiid down low and take away some of those offensive boards that fall back to Harden when he misses. Finally, Philadelphia has had a few days to relax at home while the Rockets must board a plane and fly to the East Coast after a pair of exhausting games that went into extra frames. I say back Philadelphia at home and watch that win one, lose one pattern continue for Houston.
Final Score: 76ers 114 Rockets 102