Free NBA Picks: Lakers at Rockets Odds
by Alan Matthews - 11/6/2013
The Houston Rockets have entered the Los Angeles portion of their schedule. They played at Staples Center against the Clippers on Monday -- getting thrashed, 137-118 -- in Dwight Howard's return to L.A. Even though you won't catch any true Laker fan saying he or she roots for the Clippers or likely at a Clipper game, Howard was booed heavily in his first game back in L.A. In Thursday night's TNT nightcap, Howard gets his first game against his former Laker teammates. It loses a little bit of luster because it's in Houston and because Kobe Bryant isn't playing, and I guarantee you that Kobe wants to stick it to Howard in a big way. If you are wondering, the Rockets don't play at the Lakers until Feb. 19, so Bryant should be well back from his Achilles' injury by then. Houston continues its L.A. theme with a home game against those Clippers on Saturday night.
The Lakers (2-3) are a little better than I thought they would be with a pretty lousy starting five outside of Pau Gasol. They beat the Clippers on opening night and also have beaten Atlanta, another likely playoff team. But then you see why the Lakers were given an “over/under” of 36.5 wins this season as they have been blown out at Golden State and in their last game at Dallas. It should be fun to see Gasol go up against Howard, because Gasol became a third fiddle as Howard was clogging up the paint last year, and it led to the Spaniard's worst season.
Lakers at Rockets Betting Story Lines
Not unexpectedly under Mike D'Antoni, the Lakers are a terrible defensive team, ranking 29th in points allowed at 109.0. The Mavericks, not exactly a powerhouse, had seven players with at least 11 points in Tuesday's 123-104 victory over L.A. Dallas shot 52.1 percent from the field and 48.1 from long range while outrebounding the Lakers by 15. Expect that trend to continue all season. Gasol got just nine shots and finished with 10 points in 32 minutes; the Lakers were -32 when he was on the court. How bad is the Lakers starting five? Gasol led them in points, and the Mavs' Monta Ellis was two points shy of matching the Laker starting five output of 32 points. Nick Young led the club with 21 off the bench. In their two road games this year, the Lakers have lost by a combined 50 points, allowing an average of 124 per game.
D'Antoni made a move to try and improve that defense by starting Jordan Hill over Shawne Williams at power forward for the second half of the Mavericks game, and that could be something permanent. Williams is one of the worst starters in the NBA, averaging 3.2 points on 35.3 percent shooting. He doesn't rebound much, either. Hill is averaging 6.6 points on 70 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds in about the same minutes. Going against a big body like Howard, the Lakers are going to need Hill, who has a bone bruise on his knee but should play, because Howard will dominate the skinny Gasol and backup center Chris Kaman in the paint.
Throw out that blowout loss to the Clippers, and the Rockets (4-1) have looked pretty good. They have scored at least 104 points in the past four games and are No. 4 in scoring overall at 109.4 per game. Howard hasn't made a huge difference defensively yet. Houston allowed 102.5 points per game last season and is at 103.8 so far this year. That is certainly skewed a bit by the Clippers' 137. Houston is sixth in opponents' field-goal percentage at .420, a lot of which can be attributed to Howard patrolling the paint. The Rockets are also No. 2 in rebounding. Howard is averaging 17.4 points (on 55.6 percent from the field) and 14.6 boards, both up from his Lakers numbers. He might never be a 20-point-per-night guy again (his lousy free-throw shooting doesn't help), although he had a season-high 29 on Tuesday against Portland. Houston doesn't need 20 points a night from Howard with James Harden around (25.2 ppg).
The Rockets also could make a starting change for this game. Patrick Beverley had won the point guard job over Mr. Overrated, Jeremy Lin. But Beverley injured a rib in the season-opening win over Charlotte. He missed three games before returning Tuesday with 12 points and four rebounds off the bench. Both Beverley and Lin each played 29 minutes, so it may not matter who starts. Lin might be better off with the reserves, because he's a terrible defensive player -- Beverley is pretty good -- and he can check the No. 2 point guard at times with the backups.
Lakers at Rockets NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Houston opened as a 13.5-point favorite with a total of 218.5. The Lakers are 3-2 ATS (0-2 on road) and 4-1 over/under (2-0 on road). The Rockets are 3-1-1 ATS (1-0-1 at home) and 3-2 O/U (1-1 at home). The Lakers have covered just seven of their past 30 on Thursday night. L.A. is 1-5 ATS in its past six following a loss of more than 10 points. The Rockets are 4-1 ATS in their past five after allowing at least 100 points in their previous game. They are 1-4-1 ATS in their past six after a win of more than 10 points. The under is 10-2 in Houston's past 12 Thursday games. The over is 4-0 in L.A.'s past four on Thursday. The over is 9-2 in the past 11 meetings. The Lakers are 0-4 ATS in the past four in Houston.
Free NBA Picks: Lakers at Rockets Betting Predictions
I'm sure Howard is more than ready to dominate his former teammates in this one, especially with a few saying some negative things about him after he left. There's no Kobe to offset the killer instinct. This should be a high-scoring blowout through three quarters, but I also think the Lakers will score enough points in garbage time to cover. Take them and the over.
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