NBA Picks: With Howard Back, Rockets Will Cover +1.5 vs. Warriors

Matthew Jordan

Friday, October 30, 2015 12:43 AM GMT

I'll admit when I'm wrong and I was dead wrong on Houston for its opener Wednesday against Denver. Let's try and correct things here as the Rockets host Golden State on Friday. The Warriors are +1.5 on BetOnline's NBA odds with a total of 217.5.

Curry Looks MVP-Worthy Again In Opener
Golden State players think they can top last season's franchise record of 67 wins and nothing that happened in Tuesday's opener against the Pelicans, when the Warriors raised their championship banner and got their rings, would make me argue that fact (although it's not happening). If you thought Steph Curry's MVP 2014-15 season was a fluke, he put that to bed with a 40-point night against New Orleans in the 111-95 victory. Curry, who seems to have a chip on his shoulder with many around the NBA calling the Warriors lucky last year, had 24 of those points in the first quarter alone. It was Curry's 10th career 40-point game and he added seven assists and six rebounds. The 40 points were the second-most points by a reigning MVP in an opener since 1963-64. The previous high was when Milwaukee's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar scored 41 against Phoenix on Oct. 13, 1972.

There were only two negatives from the opener. Coach Steve Kerr was in attendance, but he's still on a leave of absence due to complications from two back surgeries this summer. He still gets very painful headaches from a spinal fluid leak. Kerr expects to return at some point this season but it's totally up in the air as to when. Luke Walton continues to serve as the interim head coach.

The other downer for the Warriors, who had really good health last year, was a concussion suffered by injury-prone center Andrew Bogut. He took a shot in the head from the Pelicans' Dante Cunningham that also led to a gash that needed three stitches. Bogut had to leave in the third quarter as blood was gushing over his right eye. Bogut was wearing a protective mask because of a broken nose suffered in a preseason game and the mask caused the laceration. Festus Ezeli is the backup center, but the Warriors could opt to go with a small lineup instead.

Golden State is 4-0 ATS on NBA odds in its past  four following a win of more than 10 points.

 

Rockets Start Out Flat
I thought the Rockets would easily handle a rebuilding Denver team in Houston on Wednesday night even though the Rockets were without center Dwight Howard, who served a one-game suspension for picking up four flagrant fouls in last year's postseason -- the fourth coming against these Warriors. But Houston looked terrible in a 105-85 loss, perhaps the most surprising result of the early season thus far.

The Nuggets, who were 30-52 last year, never trailed as Houston missed its first eight shots. Reigning NBA MVP runner-up James Harden had 22 points but was 6-for-21 from the field and 2-for-12 from 3-point range. The Rockets want to shoot 40 3-pointers a game this season, but converted only 8-for-35.

Point guard Ty Lawson, the former Nugget,  made his debut and had 12 points and six assists (but none in second half). The Nuggets outshot the Rockets 50.6-34.5 percent. Howard will play on Friday. But forward  Donatas Motiejunas (back surgery) remains out.

Houston is 6-1 ATS on NBA picks in its past seven after a double-digit home loss.

 

Last Season
Golden State won all four regular season meetings with Houston by double digits. The Warriors averaged 115.0 points while shooting 49.9 percent from the field. The Rockets were held to 99.8 points per game on 40.2 percent. Howard played in two of the four and averaged 15.0 points and 10.5 rebounds. Harden averaged 25.3 points but was only 7-for-29 from long range. Curry averaged 25.8 points and shot a tremendous 57.8 percent from the field overall and 51.9 percent from 3-point range while adding 8.3 assists per game and 6.5 rebounds. Bogut played in three games and averaged 11.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks. Then of course the Warriors beat the Rockets in five games in the Western Conference Finals. Harden was awful in the final game, shooting 2-for-11 from the field (0-for-3 from 3-point range) and finishing with 14 points and a whopping 12 turnovers. He also struggled mightily in a Game 3 loss.

NBA Picks: Rockets no doubt want payback for last season's regular season sweep and playoff dusting. Having Howard helps and no Bogut hurts Warriors. Take the points, go 'under' the total at BetOnline. The 'under' is 4-1 in the past five meetings. The underdog is 4-1 in the past five.