Rockets Heavy Chalk & Worth NBA Bet Hosting Spurs in Marquee Matchup

Jay Pryce

Friday, December 15, 2017 2:02 PM UTC

Friday, Dec. 15, 2017 2:02 PM UTC

Kawhi Leonard and the the Spurs traverse Texas to take on red-hot Houston at the Toyota Center Friday (9:30 p.m. ET). One has to go back to 1996, Gregg Popovich's first year in charge of San Antonio, to find the Rockets laying 8 points or more in the series.

San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets (-8)Free NBA Pick: Rockets -8Best Line Offered: Heritage

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San Antonio Spurs (19-9 SU, 15-12-1 ATS)

Leonard Rusty, “Pop” Rules In Houston

First the good news: Kawhi Leonard made his season debut on Tuesday after injuring his quadriceps and not having played since the Western Conference Finals last season. Now the bad: San Antonio lost 95-89 to the last-place Dallas Mavericks. The best two-way player in the NBA was expectedly rusty, scoring 13 points, pulling down 6 rebounds and dishing out a single helper in nearly 16 minutes of play. Defensively, he missed a few assignments and allowed some open looks on the perimeter. Overall, a decent debut head coach Gregg Popovich found “wonderful.”

Popovich has the game plan for shutting down James Harden and the Rockets at Toyota Center. They are 5-2 SU and ATS vs. “The Beard” and crew in the building. Defense is the key, and it has made for some profitable betting picking ‘under’ the total. The wager is 6-1 all-time with the final score staying 12.2 points below the total on average. Houston has failed to reach its projected team total in all but one contest by a whopping 9.4 points per game.

Houston Rockets (22-4 SU. 14-12 ATS)

Rockets Soaring, Defense Excelling

Something triggered after Halloween that set the Rockets soaring. Since Nov. 1, they have won 17 of 18 and covered 11 against the spread. The betting market is finding it difficult to catch up to the offense. Houston is averaging 119.4 points per game in this stretch and has reached its projected team total in all but four. The difference-maker is its 3-point shooting. The team is hitting 39.8 percent from behind the arc as opposed to 30.7 prior.

The defense is performing above expectations, too. The Rockets yield 104.4 points per 100 possessions, fifth-best in the NBA. Last season, Houston ranked in the middle of the pack, surrendering 106.4 per 100 possessions. Why the boost? For one, the addition of Chris Paul and P.J. Tucker presents defenders who are more versatile than last year’s personnel, and the team is doing a better job protecting the rim.

And The Pick ...

San Antonio posts 94.8 points per game on the road, matching its projected team total just three times in the last 10 tilts. Don’t expect a scoring outburst tonight. The Spurs need time to integrate Leonard fully into the lineup, particularly on offense, where LaMarcus Aldridge has taken over the go-to role.

Pop knows that to stay competitive, defense must come first and he has a history of slowing down the Rockets in Houston. Nevertheless, Harden and crew are on another planet right now averaging 115.2 points per game at Toyota Center. They have put up 107 or more in all but one of 13 contests. Even Pop’s best game plan will struggle to slow this team down. Even if successful, San Antonio’s offense leaves a lot to be desired.

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