Bettors beware, after losing straight-up in the desert, the Houston Rockets have a road game Monday night against the Indiana Pacers, who have dropped five straight games at 1-4 against the NBA odds.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 21: 55-50-4 ATS, 5-9 Totals, plus-2.15 units ML
It might be old school, but betting the moneyline can still be fun and profitable. We faded the Houston Rockets in Friday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns (+270 road dogs at the close), and the basketball gods shone down on us with a 117-102 Suns victory. But the problem wasn’t with Houston’s injury-plagued frontcourt – it was with James Harden, who only scored 16 points on 5-of-19 from the floor. Hmmmph.
We’ll take the money, because we need it to cover for that lousy performance the Indiana Pacers put in Friday against the Brooklyn Nets. Okay, it wasn’t that lousy; Brooklyn just had one of those games, shooting 61.3 percent overall and 6-of-12 from long range. Either way, the Pacers are now 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six games, and they’re slim 1-point home faves on the early NBA odds for Monday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) with the Rockets.
Cold and Hot, Hot and Cold
Our primary motivation for fading the Rockets (46-23 SU, 40-29 ATS) with Friday night's NBA picks was the absence of Terrence Jones (18.7 PER, plus-0.4 BPM), who’s out for at least another two games with a partially collapsed lung. I didn’t mention it at the time, but we were also hoping that Harden (26.3 PER, plus-8.3 BPM) would regress a bit after dropping 50 points on the Denver Nuggets last Thursday. Harden isn’t the most consistent performer out there. However, his minus-26 against Phoenix was the second-worst plus-minus of Harden’s season thus far. That’s not going to help his MVP campaign any.
Be that as it may, Houston didn’t play very good defense against the Suns, which underlines how important it is to get Jones (plus-1.3 DBPM) and Dwight Howard (18.0 PER, plus-1.4 DBPM) back in the lineup. There’s a small chance Howard could make his return against Indiana, although it’s more likely he comes back Wednesday against the New Orleans Pelicans.
One George Hill and Two CJs
What are we going to do with the Pacers (30-39 SU, 36-30-3 ATS) in the meantime? Paul George is supposed to be back on the court soon, but it’s not expected to be as soon as this Monday night. And now Rodney Stuckey (16.3 PER, plus-0.4 BPM) is questionable to face the Rockets after he pulled up lame against Brooklyn with a sore left calf. Stuckey has quietly had a solid year for the Pacers after falling out of favor with the Detroit Pistons; he kept Indiana somewhat above water while George Hill (20.8 PER, plus-4.5 BPM) was out with a knee injury.
Good thing Indiana has some depth at point guard. C.J. Watson (14.2 PER, plus-0.5 BPM) has also had a reasonably good year, despite going 0-for-6 against the Nets – all from behind the arc, where he normally shoots 38.8 percent. Donald Sloan (13.8 PER, minus-0.8 BPM) is available in a pinch. And C.J. Miles (12.8 PER, minus-1.0 BPM) is something of a combo guard at the 2-spot; he can handle some of those pivot minutes if need be. But Indiana’s clearly better off with Stuckey.
So here we are with another one of those basketball picks where we don’t really want to follow either team. We’re not all that happy with the total this time, either. Indiana’s a solid defensive club, especially at home (UNDER 20-15), while Houston is lacking on defense at the moment. After taking a straw poll here at the home office, we’re going to recommend a small bet on the Rockets. Think of it as a zigzag play on Harden, as well as an opportunity to kick the Pacers while they’re down.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets +1.5 at Pinnacle