Pick Rockets to Cover as Howard's Return Gives the Edge vs. Nuggets

Jason Lake

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 11:37 AM UTC

Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014 11:37 AM UTC

Dwight Howard is back in action for the Houston Rockets. They look like a strong NBA pick this Wednesday night against a slumping Denver Nuggets team that Houston beat handily in Howard’s return.

Jason’s record as of Dec. 16: 17-16-1 ATS, 1-3 Totals
The Houston Rockets are going to need Dwight Howard if they’re going to win the NBA title this year. But if they do win, it’ll be because of these past few weeks without Howard in the lineup. Houston went 8-3 SU and 6-5 ATS while their All-Star big man sat out the past 11 games with a strained right knee. That’s an outstanding result, even more so with all the other injuries the Rockets have suffered.

Howard (22.0 PER) made his emphatic return on Saturday, throwing down 23 points on the Denver Nuggets on 9-of-11 shooting – thus making up for his 8-of-17 performance from the free-throw line. Houston won the game 108-96 as a 6.5-point home chalk. It was so impressive that the NBA odds for Wednesday’s rematch (10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) have the Rockets still favored by three points on the road.


I’m Your Papi
Houston fans had to love what they saw on Saturday. In addition to his 23 points, Howard outmuscled Denver for 13 rebounds and three blocks, while leading the Rockets (18-5 SU, 13-10 ATS) at plus-35. Meanwhile, James Harden (25.4 PER) posted a triple-double with 24 points, 10 assists and 10 boards. And Donatas Motiejunas (13.2 PER) complemented Howard in the paint with a career-high 25 points.

There is one other player from that game who won’t appear on Wednesday. Jason Terry (11.2 PER) came off the bench to score eight points in 25 minutes, although it wasn’t his finest shooting night at 2-of-8 from downtown. Terry will be at home with his wife after she gave birth Tuesday afternoon. However, Houston reportedly expects Isaiah Cannan (13.9 PER) to be available after missing seven games with a sprained left ankle.


Miner Injuries
While the Rockets set their controls for the playoffs, the Nuggets (10-14 SU, 10-13-1 ATS) are on a mining car ride to hell. They’ve dropped six of their last seven games at 3-4 ATS, erasing all that progress they made in late November. Injuries have played a large part; Kenneth Faried (16.7 PER), Danilo Gallinari (12.0 PER), JaVale McGee (17.4 PER) and Randy Foye (12.0 PER) have all missed time for Denver.

At least one of these four players should be back to face the Rockets. Gallinari (knee) practiced on Tuesday and is expected to make his return on Wednesday, and as we go to press, it looks like Faried (ankle) is also going to play, even though he’s listed as questionable. Faried was starting to find his form again after a slow start to the season, so he could be a difference-maker against Houston. Then again, Gallinari (28.2 percent from downtown) could hand the game right back.


He Wants Water
There’s going to be an elephant in the arena Wednesday night. Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw is on notice after the Sacramento Kings decided Monday to pull the plug on their second-year coach, Mike Malone. In addition, several Nuggets players are rumored to be on the trading block, including Wilson Chandler (14.3 PER) and Timofey Mozgov (16.3 PER). This team could be unravelling right before our eyes.

We can’t think of any particular reason you should fade Houston in this matchup. The Nuggets have burnt us before, and there’s every possibility they’ll do it again. But the Rockets have been doing everything right lately. Denver, not so much. If you’re looking to parlay your basketball pick, consider the UNDER, which 17-6 for Houston this year and 6-1-1 in Denver’s last eight. There’s a total of 206.5 points on Wednesday’s NBA odds board, up a half-point from Saturday’s total. And may the sphere be with you.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets

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