The NBA season tipped off without a hitch on Thursday night, and Friday brings six more games all day long. It almost feels like March Madness with basketball games on TV for a full day, but I’d say we deserve this after having to endure four-plus months without the NBA.
There are a couple of intriguing matchups on Friday’s schedule, but the last night’s last game looks like the best of all. We’ll have a Texas showdown with the Houston Rockets “visiting” the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs are currently 2-point favorites with a 230.5 over/under, which is easily the highest on the day.
Houston’s Two-Headed Monster
This game brings no shortage of star power between James Harden, Luka Doncic, Russell Westbrook, and Kristaps Porzingis. Harden and Westbrook have won two of the last league MVP awards, and the two had started to gel by the time the season was shut down in the middle of March.
Harden leads the NBA with an average of 34.4 points per game on the season. With Bradley Beal not playing for the Wizards during the restart, Harden already has the scoring title wrapped up. This will be the third straight year in which Harden has led the league in scoring, and he’s the first player since Kevin Durant (2009-2012) to three-peat with the scoring title.
Whether Houston can compete for a championship likely depends on Westbrook, however. While he’s no longer averaging a triple-double, Westbrook is still putting up averages of 27.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists per game despite having to share the floor with another high-usage player in Harden.
The Rockets have gone all-in on small-ball after trading Clint Capela at the deadline. That leaves PJ Tucker to play most of the center minutes, while Robert Covington adds spacing and quality defense on the wing. That defense should come in handy against all of the talented ball-handlers in the Western Conference come playoff time, but we’ll see how Houston’s small lineups stack up.
Porzingis Could Feast
While Doncic is obviously the Mavs’ headliner, don’t overlook Porzingis. Houston will have a difficult time containing the 7’3″ big man, who has posted averages of 19.2 points and better than 9 rebounds per game in his first campaign in Dallas. Porzingis put 35 points on the board in his most recent meeting against the Rockets, who were forced to start Tucker at center that night with Capela injured.
Dallas is the only team in the league that has been more prolific than Houston offensively. The Mavs have scored 113.8 points per 100 possessions, which is one of the more prolific marks we’ve seen in that category all-time. The Rockets, meanwhile, are second at 111 points per 100 possessions.
Rockets vs Mavericks Pick
With a couple of high-octane offenses going toe-to-toe, it’s safe to expect plenty of points to be scored in this one. This game would have an implied total north of 240 if it were held in normal circumstances, but oddsmakers are having to do some guesswork with regard to the lines now that teams will be playing in front of empty arenas without fans.
So, the over/under of 230.5 for this game is considerably lower than we would otherwise expect. While the new surroundings do present unique challenges for the players, I still think the line is far too low for a couple of teams that score as well as the Rockets and Mavs do.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the rivals. They combined for 260 points in their first showdown back in November and 249 points last time they met in late-January. Nothing is guaranteed, but I like our chances of getting an old-fashioned shootout in this one.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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