Bested Again By The Best
Perhaps it's time to call the Spurs (22-22 ATS, 26-17-1 O/U at sportsbooks) out as championship frauds. They have not been good against the NBA's best teams this year and that continued Sunday with a 113-101 loss in Miami -- it did pay out well for sports bettors who followed our recommendation on NBA picks to give the points in that game. It wasn't even that competitive a rematch of the NBA Finals with Miami never trailing and leading by as much as 29. To be fair, the Spurs did play without injured starters Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, and they are all out for this one too.
On the bright side, since the game wasn't close no Spurs player logged more than Marco Belinelli's 31 minutes. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, who totaled 34 points but were a combined minus-38, each played only 24 minutes. Manu Ginobili was terrible, just like he was for most of the Finals, by shooting 1-for-7 for three points. He has been held to three points or fewer in three of the past four games. San Antonio did reach triple digits for a 15th straight game when Cory Joseph made two free throws with seven seconds left.
San Antonio dropped to 1-10 against the top teams it has played thus far. In those 11 games, according to the San Antonio News Express, the Spurs are allowing 112.4 points per 100 possessions on 50.7 percent shooting.
Good Riddance Grizz
Houston (22-22-2 ATS, 21-23-2 O/U at sportsbooks) will simply be glad to be rid of Memphis as the Grizzlies swept the Rockets in a home-and-home over the weekend, with high-scoring Houston (No. 5 in the NBA at 105.0 points per game) held to 81 and 88 points -- only the fifth and sixth time this season the Rockets were held under 90 points. Somehow starting Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley didn't have a single assist in 33 minutes Saturday. That's tough to do. The Rockets largely live and die by the 3-pointer and were only 9-for-32 from there Saturday. Chandler Parsons was 1-for-6 a night after going 10-for-14 from long range. All 10 came in the second half, an NBA record for 3-pointers in a half.
The Grizzlies killed Houston on the boards and in the paint Saturday, which isn't supposed to happen with Dwight Howard in there. James Harden also struggled in the two games, shooting 8-for-24 for 26 points. His numbers are mostly down across the board from last season. However, with the Spurs' Leonard out, Harden could have a big night Tuesday as Leonard is San Antonio's best perimeter defender.
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Houston has had the Spurs' number in winning both meetings thus far. Those represent two of the Spurs' seven home losses -- they've been much better on the road. On Nov. 30, the Rockets won 112-106 behind 31 from Harden. They blew a 23-point lead, with Beverley tipping in a Harden miss with 32 seconds left to give Houston a 108-106 edge it wouldn't relinquish. Parker had 27 for the Spurs but took an unusually high 27 shots.
On Christmas, the Rockets won 111-98 behind 28 from Harden -- 16 in the fourth quarter -- and 15 points and 20 boards from Howard. Houston's starters outscored San Antonio's a whopping 98-45. Parker was just 3-for-11 for six points and the Spurs were 5-for-20 from long range compared to Houston's 12-for-24.
NBA free pick: Houston -1.5 and the over. The Rockets are averaging 108.8 points in the past six against the Spurs. They have covered the past four versus San Antonio. The Spurs, who are very thin with all the injuries, have covered only two of their past seven games overall.