Spread’s a Wash
At -3, there isn’t much you can do with these NBA odds. On one hand, you have a team down 0-2 with arguably the two best players in the series, matching up against the home team whose super star and budding young point guard are stealing the show. Dwight Howard’s big night was trumped by LaMarcus Aldridge’s insane evening. Aldridge joined Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady as the only players who have scored 40 or more points in both Games 1 and 2 on the road.
It seems the only thing that we can count on with this series is that these two teams can score on one another. With the NBA odds of 216 for the total, I once again like the 'over'. Even with Damian Lillard and James Harden shooting a combined 27% from the floor in Game 2, the total went 'over', and it was only one point lower than the 216 we have for Game 3.
It seems the Blazers aren’t too concerned with doubling Howard too often, which I think has really helped scoring in this series. Howard and the Rockets aren’t doing anything to slow down Aldridge in the post on the other end, and because of his quickness and shooting ability, the Rockets don’t have much to match up well against him. In fact, the Rockets don’t have much in regards to defense outside of Howard and Patrick Beverley, and even those two are struggling some. Despite holding Lillard to only 3-14 from the floor, Beverley is still playing hurt, and playing big minutes. Howard also could have to take an even bigger role of defending Aldridge in Game 3 on the road, which might help, but how much? Even if Houston results to doubling Aldridge in Game 3, the Blazers have enough shooting to make them pay from the perimeter.
The Sharp Pick
Including the last two playoff games, the total has now gone 'over' in the last nine meetings between the Rockets and Blazers. The NBA odds markets have not increased this total dramatically from the last game, and with how badly Houston performed on the road during the regular season, I’m surprised. Let's take advantage of the bookies miscalculations by jumping on the total with our NBA picks.
Houston had one of the worst road defenses in the NBA this season, as they gave up an average of 106 points per game. Furthermore, down the stretch of the season they collapsed even harder. Despite the fact that they were scoring more than 112 points per game, they were giving up that much as well in their last ten games, including the most recent two against Portland.
The Blazers aren’t going to slow down at home, and with the Rockets playing with only a seven-man rotation, they have to log huge minutes right now. Harden, Beverley and Chandler Parsons all played 40 or more minutes in Game 2, and with only one day off in between games, the Rockets are not going to have any time to practice or rest much.
I think this gives a huge advantage to the Blazers. Portland is good enough to smell blood here and go for the kill. I see them playing very fast, and almost going into seven seconds or less mode. This should lead to the Rockets doing the same, and the total going over for a tenth meeting in a row between these two.
My Free NBA Pick: 'Over' 216