Both New Orleans and Houston really need this game, so resting players or tanking to manipulate the playoff picture are off the table. This is a “straight-ahead” NBA betting situation.
The New Orleans Pelicans Can Win Because…
They are playing a level of defense that will get them into the playoffs. The Pelicans squashed the Phoenix Suns on Friday night, limiting the Suns to just 75 points, no more than 21 in any single quarter. The Pelicans’ defense was consistent throughout the game and at every position. There were only two Phoenix players who hit at least 50 percent of their shots, and they attempted five shots (Brandon Wright) and two shots (Earl Barron), respectively. Anyone who attempted at least six or more shots for Phoenix hit under 50 percent from the field. Phoenix finished the game hitting just 35.3 percent of its field goals, only 28 percent from three-point range. The Suns also earned just 10 free throw attempts. New Orleans was very good at defending without giving away cheap points at the foul line.
Here’s another really good indication of how well the Pelicans defended on Friday night: They blocked 13 shots… and only one of those blocks came from superstar big man Anthony Davis. Eight different New Orleans players blocked shots against Phoenix. The bench came up with nine of the team’s 13 blocks. Omer Asik grabbed 12 defensive rebounds for New Orleans, which finished plus-8 in terms of defensive rebounds for the game. The Pelicans were able to win comfortably even though they hit just five three-pointers and made only 11 free throws. That’s an impressive defensive performance. With Houston’s James Harden having endured a 5 of 19 shooting night against San Antonio on Friday, New Orleans has a real chance to keep him under wraps on Sunday.
The Houston Rockets Can Win Because…
These favorites in NBA odds tonight are unlikely to suffer the kinds of frustrations they suffered on Friday against the San Antonio Spurs. The Rockets were done in by some rare events, one of them being James Harden going 5 of 19 from the field. You’re going to see that once in a while, but not very likely in back-to-back games. Harden should be a lot better in this game, one Houston needs to win if it wants a higher seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
The other really rare event on Friday was that San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich identified Josh Smith of Houston as his target for intentional fouling. Smith attempted 26 free throws as a result of Popovich’s move, and since Houston coach Kevin McHale needed Smith on the court for defense, he couldn’t take him out. Smith hit just 12 of 26 free throws, and so while Houston scored one point on many of those San Antonio fouls, the Spurs scored two points. They won the game by a point when Tim Duncan was not called for a foul on a drive by Harden in the final three seconds of the game.
Houston should be able to beat New Orleans because those wacky events just mentioned are not likely to repeat themselves here.
The Rockets and Pelicans both need this game. The better team and the home team generally win important games. Houston is the better team and the home team here. Take them with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Houston -5.5 at 5Dimes