NBA Picks: Take Rockets To Cover Over Mavs While The Price Is Right

Jason Lake

Sunday, January 24, 2016 2:20 PM GMT

Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016 2:20 PM GMT

The Houston Rockets are hurting. How many of them will suit up Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks? For that matter, will the Mavs be too shorthanded for our NBA picks?

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Free NBA Pick: Houston -1.5 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

 

Like Joni Mitchell once sang, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone. The Houston Rockets had a good thing going last year, finishing second in the Western Conference, then they tried to make some upgrades and take it to the next level for 2015-16. It wasn't working out. So they did the smart thing and called for a do-over. Patrick Beverley was reinstated as the starting point guard, and now PF Josh Smith is back in town, courtesy of a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Houston's taking this revival a bit too far, though. Just like last year, injuries have taken their toll on the Rockets: Beverley has missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, center Dwight Howard is out with the same malady, and several other players are iffy or worse for Sunday's game (3:30 p.m. ET) versus the Dallas Mavericks. That didn't stop Houston from opening as a 1.5-point home fave on our NBA odds board. Wait, what?

 

Man and Superman
Okay, it sounds like half the team is missing, but things aren't that bad for the Rockets. Beverley (11.7 PER, –0.6 BPM) was able to practice on Saturday and expects to play Sunday. Of the unnamed casualties in question, PF Donatas Motiejunas (9.3 PER, –5.7 BPM) is the only one definitely on the shelf, and he hasn't been of much use to Houston anyway because of his bad back. Guard Jason Terry (11.5 PER, –1.9 BPM) has a sore knee, but his services won't be needed as much now that Beverley is returning.

That still leaves Howard (20.5 PER, +1.5 BPM). He's obviously a big part of what makes the Rockets fly. So have the basketball odds already taken his likely absence into account? The fine folks at Basketball-Reference have the Rockets (–1.19 SRS) rated worse than Dallas (+0.06 SRS) by enough points to suggest a kayfabe spread of around Houston –2.5 at home. Howard must be worth more than a point to the Rox, right?

 

An Effusion of Yellow
Well, Smith played 21 minutes at center for the Rockets in Friday's 102-98 win over the Milwaukee Bucks (+2.5 away). Let's be charitable and assign Smith the same stats he put up for Houston last year: 15.2 PER and +0.9 BPM. Not bad. However, PF Terrence Jones (14.6 PER, –2.6 BPM) will absorb most of the remaining minutes in Howard's absence. We'll call it a wash.

Meanwhile, this just came down the news wire: Both PF Dirk Nowitzki (19.7 PER, +1.8 BPM) and center Zaza Pachulia (17.8 PER, +2.8 BPM) are questionable for the Mavs on Sunday. Holy doodle. Nowitzki has a right knee effusion, and Pachulia has a sore right leg. That's why we've ultimately decided to put the Rockets in our NBA picks while this price is still available. Strike while the iron is hot and all that.

 

Jason's 2015-16 record as of Jan. 22: 15-16-1 ATS, 5-1-1 Total

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