Free NBA Picks: Rockets at Trail Blazers Odds
by Alan Matthews - 12/11/2013
If you had told me before the season that when I previewed a Dec. 12 game between Houston and Portland one of those teams would be leading the ultra-deep Western Conference, I would have said "yeah, that wouldn't surprise me." Of course, I would have expected it to be the Rockets and not the Blazers.
I really don't know what to make of Portland (18-4) yet, and oddsmakers don't, either. For example, at Sportsbook.ag, the Blazers are only eighth to win the NBA championship at +1800 and +800 to win the West behind Oklahoma City, San Antonio, the Clippers, Houston (+600) and Golden State. You can't win a title in the NBA without a transcendent superstar, and Portland doesn't have one. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, last year's Rookie of the Year, are both very good players. Superstars? I don't think so. I think these Blazers are more like the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets: a deep team built more for the regular season than in a playoff series.
As for Houston (15-7), it hasn't looked quite like a championship team yet, but you had to think it would take the club a few months to adjust to the addition of Dwight Howard. Houston remains a terrific offensive team, leading the league in points, but still a bit questionable on defense (20th in points), although thanks largely to Howard it ranks No. 1 in rebounding.
Rockets at Blazers Betting Story Lines
The most interesting thing to watch regarding the Rockets is center Omer Asik. He became a starter for the first time last season and was terrific. The club originally hoped to play both he and Howard to form a modern-day Twin Towers lineup. It didn't work, and Houston has been way better since benching Asik and inserting Terrence Jones into the starting five. Jones, the former Kentucky player, is averaging 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds in just 23.9 minutes. The 6-foot-9 Jones doesn't clog up the paint like Asik did for Howard.
Asik hasn't played the past three games, supposedly because of a bruised thigh, but he's become a cancer to the team with his multiple trade requests. The club likely won't play him again before trading him, and the Rockets already have set a deadline of Dec. 19 to do so. He's definitely going somewhere, and that should only improve Houston's depth. The Rockets are looking for a stretch power forward like the Pelicans' Ryan Anderson, but Anderson (21.7 points per game) is playing way too well for New Orleans to deal him even though the Pelicans badly need a big body next to Anthony Davis (when he's back from injury).
One team that was mentioned back in November as a possible Asik landing spot was Portland, perhaps in a trade for center Robin Lopez. However, Lopez is having a career year and is a big part of the Blazers' success, so that deal won't happen. Lopez is averaging 9.2 points and 8.6 rebounds and filled a gaping hole in the middle the Blazers had a season ago. I expect Asik to land in Philadelphia from some package involving Thaddeus Young.
Houston will get point guard Jeremy Lin back for this game. He missed the past six with a sprained knee. He has played well coming off the bench behind Patrick Beverley, averaging 15.3 points and 4.5 assists. The Rockets have followed puzzling losses to Utah and Phoenix with back-to-back home wins over Golden State and Orlando. Howard has been a beast with at least 18 rebounds in each of the past three games. He's even 27-for-43 from the line in that stretch, which is great for him. The Rockets may not have coach Kevin McHale for this game as he's away attending to a family matter. Assistant Kelvin Sampson would take over.
Portland is off to its best start since 1990-91 and is second in the league in scoring. It has yet to lose back-to-back games and bounced back from a 108-106 home loss to Dallas on Saturday with an 11-point win in Utah on Monday. Portland has scored in triple-digits nine games in a row. While we expected good things from Aldridge and Lillard, Wesley Matthews has stepped up to be a very good No. 3 option, averaging 16.2 points per game. Guard Mo Williams has been a tremendous offseason addition and anchors the bench. The Blazers aren't deep, however, so if one of their starting five or Williams goes down, there's not much else there until perhaps rookie C.J. McCollum is ready to make his season debut. He has been out with a broken foot but may return by the end of the month.
Rockets at Blazers NBA Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Portland opened as a four-point favorite with a total of 212. Houston is 12-9-1 ATS (5-4 on road) and 11-11 “over/under” (7-2 on road). Portland is 16-6 ATS (7-4 at home) and 15-7 O/U (8-3 at home). Houston is 4-1 ATS in its past five when its opponent scores 100 points or more in its previous game. The Blazers are 5-0 ATS in their past five Thursday games. They are just 1-7 ATS in their past eight against the Southwest Division. The over is 4-1 in Houston's past five against teams with a winning record. The over is 5-0 in Portland's past five after a win. The over is 4-0 in the past four meetings. Houston has covered five of the past six in Portland.
Free NBA Picks: Rockets at Blazers Betting Predictions
This is the second of four meetings. Back on Nov. 5 in Portland, the Rockets won 116-101 to drop Portland to 2-2. James Harden poured in 33, and Howard 29 points and 13 boards in the second of a back-to-back for Houston. The Blazers would follow that with an 11-game winning streak. Lillard had 22 and Aldridge 21 for Portland against Houston. The Blazers were gashed on the boards, outrebounded 47-30. Lopez was a non-factor as Howard dominated him.
Houston has won five of its past six at the Rose Garden, and this is its last visit of the regular season. The Blazers won't want to be swept there by a potential playoff opponent. So I like Portland and the over in this one.
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