Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 2 inclusive:
Did the Mayans say anything about 2014? Both the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks pulled off major upsets on Thursday, beating the top two teams in the Western Conference on the road. New York’s unlikely win came at the expense of the San Antonio Spurs, who fell 105-101 as 11.5-point home faves. Good thing I recommended the OVER in that one.
The Knicks (10-21 SU, 11-20 ATS) will carry those good vibes into the Toyota Center Friday night when they face the Houston Rockets (21-13 SU, 17-15-2 ATS), who have been idle since Tuesday’s shocking 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings (+10 away). Crazy Mayans. Houston is an 11.5-point chalk on the early NBA odds with a total of 207.5.
I bailed on the point spread for Thursday’s game against San Antonio because I wanted to see how the Knicks would respond to Carmelo Anthony’s return. Pretty well, as it turned out. After missing three games with a sprained left ankle, all miserable losses for New York, Anthony (23.8 PER) dumped 27 points and 12 rebounds on the Spurs. Iman Shumpert also had a career game with 27 points for the Knicks. All this against the No. 5-ranked defense in the NBA.
Shumpert probably won’t do that again anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the possibility that the Knicks are a strong buy-low candidate now that Anthony is back in the fold. Not just Anthony, but center Tyson Chandler (17.6 PER) as well. Even PF Amar’e Stoudemire (15.6 PER) is coming back to life; he played 22.2 minutes per game in December, scoring 12.0 points with 4.5 rebounds. The Knicks are looking very attractive to online sportsbooks with these role players back in the lineup.
But can they stay healthy? Anthony tweaked his ankle late in the evening against San Antonio, and with Houston being the second of back-to-back games for the Knicks, this is yet another one of those situations where you’d be well advised to wait until further news on how Anthony holds up during Friday’s shootaround.
Something about Houston Having a Problem
At least New York was smart enough to pick a struggling opponent. The Rockets lost back-to-back games SU and ATS to end 2013; you might recall I faded them against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who prevailed 117-86 as 4.5-point home faves. Houston is dealing with injury problems of its own at the premium positions of point guard and center. Patrick Beverley (12.1 PER) is still out with a broken hand, and Omer Asik (10.6 PER) has missed the last 15 games.
It’s not all doom and gloom in Space City. Center Greg Smith (16.1 PER last year) is practicing with the team once again after playing just eight games this season because of nagging knee/quad issues. The pride of Vallejo, Calif. is a very efficient low-post scorer and rebounder when healthy; Smith was good for 13.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes in 2012-13, and the Rockets desperately need him to soak up some minutes in relief of Dwight Howard (21.8 PER).
We haven’t heard any further news about Howard’s sore back – he played 45 minutes against Sacramento, and the extra rest should keep Howard limber enough to face the tired Knicks. Let’s not forget about PG Jeremy Lin (16.4 PER) getting a chance to stick it to his former team. New York is still down to third-string point guard Beno Udrih (12.8 PER), so Houston’s problems don’t seem so problematic in this matchup. I’m still inclined to hammer the OVER for our NBA pick. Gotta stick with what’s working.
NBA Pick: Take OVER 207.5 (–103) at Marathon