Trail Blazers are the NBA Pick as Underdogs in Houston

LT Profits Sports Group

Monday, December 22, 2014 6:26 PM UTC

Monday, Dec. 22, 2014 6:26 PM UTC

Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Monday.


The road underdogs seem to hold inherent value in a matchup of two Western Conference powers Monday night when the Portland Trail Blazers (22-6, 10-4 away) pay a visit to the Houston Rockets (19-7, 9-5 home) at the Toyota Center in Houston, TX at 8:05 ET in a game available on Comcast SportsNet - Houston.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Portland as a moderate underdog for this contest with the current line at +3 with odds of -108.

Portland Does Not Mind Travelling
At 22-6, the Blazers currently hold the second best record in the West behind only the 22-3 Golden State Warriors, and as you mind expect they have been unfazed by going on the road as they have a sparkling 10-4 straight up mark when travelling. They are maintaining a nine-game lead over second place Oklahoma City in the Northwest Division for now, although they lead will probably shrink once Kevin Durant comes back for the Thunder from his sprained ankle.

The Rockets are having a fine season in their own right at 19-7, but that still leaves them only in second place and 1½ behind the 21-6 Memphis Grizzlies in the brutal Southwest Division where the Dallas Mavericks are third at 20-8 and the defending champion San Antonio Spurs are biding their time in fourth until they get some walking wounded back. The Rockets have been the losing NBA picks in two straight games however with both losses coming here at home.

Great Inside/Outside Game
It is no secret that the Blazers can score in anyone, as they have the prototypical inside/outside game that many great offenses possess. The “outside” is provided by Damian Lillard, who is averaging 21.4 points thanks to 39.6-percent shooting from beyond the three-point arc while also leading the team with his 6.2 assists per game.

Lillard went off for 43 points in a triple-overtime win over the Spurs in San Antonio on Friday night with an amazing 24 of those points coming after there was two minutes left in regulation time, as Lillard simply refused to allow the Blazers to lose that contest!

And the “inside” is provided by LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging a double-double while leading Portland in both points (22.8 per game) and rebounds (10.7) and who has now posted five consecutive double-doubles including going off for 32 points and 15 boards in that triple-OT affair in San Antonio and then coming right back with 27 points and 12 rebounds in New Orleans the following night on Saturday.

But what has been lost in the Blazers’ success this season has been the improvement of the defense, as Portland is currently second in the NBA in points against at 96.2 overall, third in field goal percentage allowed overall at 42.9 percent and first in three-point defense at a scant 29.3 percent, and that is while playing in the more wide open of the two conferences!

Leaky Defense = Two-Game Losing Streak
Conversely, Houston has slipped a bit defensively while losing the back-to-back home games to New Orleans and Atlanta. The Rockets were especially generous in the 104-97 loss to the Hawks on Saturday, allowing Atlanta to shoot 38-for-74, 51.4 percent from the field. The fact that probably the Rockets’ best defender Dwight Howard must now contend with Aldridge in the pivot is not a good omen for the Houston defense tonight either.

Also, while the Rockets have won 19 games they need their defense to step up because they are a disappointing 18th in the NBA in scoring with 99.7 points per game and a dismal 28th in field goal percentage at 42.3 percent. Thus, Houston has a tough time winning when its defense lets it down, as the Rockets discovered while losing to two lesser foes than what they are facing tonight in those last two contests.

No Signs of Fatigue
Finally, it speaks to the character of the Blazers that for a team whose starters average the most minutes in the NBA due to probably the weakest bench in the league, they showed absolutely no fatigue after the triple overtime game Friday in which three players played over 50 minutes, coming right back to shoot 53.3 percent (48-for-90) in an easy 114-88 win in New Orleans Saturday!

Thus Portland should now be rejuvenated after a day off, and the Blazers get our underdog call in Houston on Monday.

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NBA Pick: Trail Blazers +3 (-108)

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