Free NBA Picks: Bucks at Rockets Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/17/2014
The NBA season is an 82-game grind, so there are going to be bad losses for any team (just ask the two-time champion Miami Heat). The key thing about a bad loss is to immediately put it in the rear-view mirror and move on. Thus, I am very interested to see how Houston responds to an absolutely horrific home defeat on Thursday night to Oklahoma City when the Rockets host the NBA's worst team on Saturday, Milwaukee. There's no reason this shouldn't be a rout, but if the Rockets have a hangover and struggle, or actually lose, then that's on the coach.
Bucks at Rockets Betting Story Lines
To make matters worse for Houston, Thursday's defeat was the start of a five-game homestand. The Thunder won 104-92 despite the fact that Houston had a season-high 73 first-half points and led by 14 at the break. The Rockets managed all of 10 third-quarter points and nine in the fourth. It's not like Oklahoma City's defense is as good as Indiana's, either. The 54-point disparity in scoring for Houston between the first and second half was the biggest in NBA history, and the 19 points were a Rockets franchise low in a half as well as the third-worst point total for a half in league history. The Rockets were 12-of-20 from long range before intermission and 0-for-14 after. They shot 57 percent in the first half with five turnovers and 19.4 percent in the second with 12 giveaways. Houston was the fourth team in the shot-clock era to score 10 points or fewer in consecutive quarters and first to score at least 40 points in a quarter and then 10 points or fewer in the next two.
There was plenty of blame to go around, but Dwight Howard was just 2-for-8 in the second half and in foul trouble. He finished with a quiet 11 points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes. Jeremy Lin was 2-for-8 overall for six points and James Harden only 6-for-16 for 16 points. About the only bright spot was the play of Terrence Jones. He had 16 points and 13 rebounds and has been playing very well of late, averaging 15.6 points and 11.6 boards in the past five.
The Rockets remain without injured point guard Patrick Beverley and center Omer Asik. Beverley should be back next week from a broken hand, and that would send Lin back to the bench, where he has been better. Asik has missed 22 games with a thigh bruise, but unless that's the worst thigh bruise in NBA history, I still say the team is just not playing Asik because they don't want his attitude poisoning the locker room. Of course, he has demanded a trade more than once, but it's looking more and more like both he and Lin will remain in Houston because of their poison pill contracts that looked smart on Houston's part when it signed the duo but makes them almost untradeable now that the expensive final year will kick in next season ($15 million each).
Milwaukee has lost seven straight (1-6 against the spread) and 10 of 11 to clearly establish itself as the team to get the most ping-pong balls in this spring's draft lottery. The Bucks have been held under 95 points in nine of their past 10 games. To no surprise, they are last in the NBA in scoring at 91.3 points per game. On the bright side, point guard Brandon Knight has been playing well for a while, averaging 17.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists since Dec. 1. Knight was by far the best Buck on the court in Wednesday's 82-77 loss to Memphis as he was 10-for-17 from the field for 27 points. No other Milwaukee player had more than 10.
While Knight's stock is rising, O.J. Mayo's is plummeting. It's clear the Bucks overpaid for Mayo this offseason, but they had little choice as free agents aren't exactly pining to go to Milwaukee. In the past two games, Mayo has played only 25 minutes and is 2-for-11 from the field for a combined five points. I expect Milwaukee to be active before the trade deadline as Luke Ridnour, Gary Neal and Caron Butler would all have value to contenders. Butler could be bought out. No one would take Mayo.
Bucks at Rockets Betting Odds and Key Trends
At BetOnline, Houston opened as a 14.5-point favorite with a total of 201. Milwaukee is 13-25 ATS (8-12 on road) and 19-19 "over/under" (12-8 on road). Houston is 20-19-2 ATS (10-9-2 ATS) and 19-21-1 O/U (8-13 at home). The Bucks are 2-10 ATS in their past 12 against the West. The Bucks are 2-8 ATS in their past 10 playing on two days of rest. Houston has covered six straight Saturday games. The under is 5-1 in Milwaukee's past six against the West. The over is 5-0 in Houston's past five after a loss of at least 10 points. The road team is 5-2 ATS in the past seven meetings.
Free NBA Picks: Bucks at Rockets Betting Predictions
This is the first of two meetings this season. The Bucks have won two straight in Houston after losing 11 in a row there. I'm going to assume Rockets coach Kevin McHale got his guys' attention after Thursday's second-half effort, and I expect a big-time bounce-back against Milwaukee. Take Houston and the over in what should be a blowout. It better be, or McHale's not the right guy for the job. I almost never will recommend giving this many points, but the Bucks have failed to cover this year as a double-digit dog, which is just crazy.
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