NBA Picks: Lakers vs. Rockets

Jason Lake

Thursday, November 7, 2013 1:17 PM GMT

The depleted Los Angeles Lakers are just one of many teams to shock the NBA betting world in the early weeks of the 2013-14 regular season. Can they keep it up against the Houston Rockets?

Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 6 inclusive: 2-5 ATS

Things are not what they seem in the NBA. The Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic are a combined 10-1-1 ATS as I write this, making the whole “Tank Time” discussion seem very foolish, indeed. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS) are not nearly as bad as I or most anyone else thought. Underdogs as a whole are 33-24-3 ATS at press time. Woof woof.

Let’s not get too carried away with early results. The Lakers still have one foot in the proverbial grave, and Dwight Howard would love to push them all the way in when his Houston Rockets (4-1 SU, 3-1-1 ATS) welcome L.A. to the Toyota Center on Thursday night. The NBA betting lines have the Rockets laying 13.5 points to Howard’s former team. That’s almost two touchdowns!

Check out SBRs Thursday Night NBA Parlay

The Yellow Dog

According to my painstaking research, the last time the Lakers got 13.5 points on the NBA odds was… this past January against the San Antonio Spurs. The Los Angeles frontline was missing Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill, but the Lakers played a scrappy fourth quarter and lost 108-105. In fact, the Lakers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games as double-digit dogs stretching back to 2006.

The Lakers won’t have Howard this Thursday night (9:30 p.m. ET, TNT), either. Nor will they have Kobe Bryant. But they do have a quality second unit, as it turns out, and coach Mike D’Antoni is already dipping into his reserves, putting SG Xavier Henry (18.9 points per 40 minutes) and PF Jordan Hill (18.3 points, 15.0 rebounds per 40) in the starting lineup. Hill is expected to start again in Houston as D’Antoni goes big against Howard.

Superman’s Song

Thursday’s NBA lines may be inflated somewhat, in anticipation of Howard getting his revenge on an L.A. team and community that refused to embrace him as their leader. He was never all that healthy in his one season in Purple and Gold; Howard says he’s good now, and his early numbers are indeed up from last year, particularly on the boards:

Howard 2012-13: 19.0 points, 13.9 rebounds/40

Howard 2013-14: 20.7 points, 17.4 rebounds/40

While Howard might never score at the same rate as he did in his peak Orlando years, these rebounding numbers are the best of his career. And they’re happening while he plays power forward alongside Omer Asik (9.7 points, 16.3 rebounds/40), who is also grabbing more boards than ever before. As a team, Houston is fourth in the league in offensive rebounding rate at 32.2 percent, giving James Harden (26.4 points/40) plenty of second chances at scoring.

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Hot Turnovers

Speaking of second chances, there’s only one area that Houston is failing in, and that’s in the turnover department. At press time, the Rockets are No. 27 in offensive TOV rate (17.4 percent) and last in defensive TOV rate (11.0 percent). Gotta take care of the basketball. Los Angeles is No. 5 in offensive TOV rate (13.2 percent), so at least there’s one thing that Steve Nash (3.3 A/TO) is still good at.

All right, I’ve been more than snarky enough about Nash. He’s a living legend and deserves better. But so do Lakers fans; the sooner Jordan Farmar (18.2 points, 8.9 assists/40) is put in the starting lineup, the better. It isn’t just Nash, either. Steve Blake (9.4 points, 6.1 assists/40) is five years removed from his peak as the poor man’s Nash. Now he’s just poor.

All that being said, I have to pick the double-digit dogs. It’s not easy to beat massive NBA point spreads like that. Houston is 1-8-1 ATS in its last 10 games dating back to 2008 when laying 13 points or more, and 6-22-2 ATS in its last 30 going back to 1995. Tough gig.

NBA Pick: Take the Lakers +13.5 (–108) at Pinnacle