Trail Blazers Huge Home Underdogs Versus Red-Hot Rockets

Jay Pryce

Saturday, December 9, 2017 3:49 PM UTC

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017 3:49 PM UTC

The Trail Blazers are catching 9.5 points at Moda Center as they host the soaring Rockets Saturday night (10 p.m. ET). It just the third time in the last decade Portland is spotted 9 points or more on the NBA oddsboard at home. Does it cover the spread? Pick and preview here. 

Houston Rockets (-9.5) vs Portland Trail Blazers

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Free NBA Pick: Under 216Best Line Offered: at Heritage

Houston Rockets (19-4 SU, 14-9 ATS)Rockets Defense Soaring

Houston is rolling, going 14-1 SU and 11-4 ATS since the start of November. Defense is the difference-maker, surprisingly. The team posts some pretty mindboggling offensive stats, like averaging more than half their shot attempts from behind the arc, but it is growing stronger and stronger on the other side of the court as the season wears on. The Rockets yield 100.9 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 that are more versatile than last year’s personnel, and the team is doing a better job protecting the rim. The squad is really buckling down of late. Six of its last seven opponents have stayed under their projected team total by a 7.6 average.

Will the newfound emphasis on D be enough to keep scoring down at Moda Center? Harden has played five prior contests with Houston in the building. The ‘over’ is 4-1 with a 229.4 combined game score eclipsing a 218.2 average total.

Portland Trail Blazers (13-11 SU, 9-13-2 ATS)Nurkic, Harkless Out; Rare Underdog Status

Tough break for the Trail Blazers as center Jusuf Nurkic is ruled out Saturday with an ankle injury. The 7-footer limped off the court in the fourth quarter of Portland’s 106-92 loss to the Wizards Tuesday night. The big man is averaging 15.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Maurice Harkless is listed as questionable with a quad contusion, also sustained in the defeat. The fifth-year pro has started 18 games for Portland, averaging 5.2 points on 41 percent shooting. Expect a rotation of Pat Connaughton, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner and Jake Layman to fill the frontcourt void.

Oddsmakers opened the Rockets 9-point favorites, adjusting to -9.5 in early trading. It’s just the third time since 2006 the Trail Blazers are catching 9 points or more at Moda Center. The market has spotted the franchise as many six times in the last 30 years. It is 2-4 SU and ATS in these contests.

Since head coach Terry Stotts took over in 2012, the Blazers are 4-10 SU and 5-9 ATS when catching 6 points or more at home. For you prop bettors, star point guard Damian Lillard has suited up for all but one, posting 26.9 points, 7.2 assists, and 1.4 steals in 38.2 minutes.

Pick

Believe the Rockets defense hype. It will stuff the Blazers tonight. With Nurkic and Harkless missing, the unit can cheat to the perimeter to slow down Lillard and shooting guard C.J. McCollum. The unit already performed well against opponents failing to score much from the paint. Houston allows 99.6 points per game to opponents averaging fewer than 44 a night form the area, as opposed to 106.0 above this figure. The Trail Blazers enter scoring 42.5 from the high-percentage area, Nurkic and Harkless accounting for nearly 50 percent production. Houston wins 108-95 and keeps Portland under the century mark. Go against the line movement and pick ‘under’ 216 for your best bet.

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