This is the most wide-open season for NBA betting we have had in years. The Golden State Warriors are no longer looming over everything, which means there are several teams capable of winning the title. Let’s not forget that the Warriors were actually minus-money favorites to win the championship for most of last season. The 2019-20 campaign has been refreshingly different in that regard.
The Houston Rockets are trying their best to win a title with a style of play we’ve never seen at this level. The Rockets decided to essentially eliminate the center position when they traded Clint Capela to Atlanta just before the deadline. Instead, Houston is spacing the floor with 5 smaller guys and just trying to bombard teams with 3-pointers. Defensively, the Rockets are able to switch everything and send an extra defender as a means of combatting teams that try to bully them with size.
So far, so good. The Rockets are 12-2 since changing their style. The only losses were a game in Phoenix on the second night of a back-to-back without Russell Westbrook and a 1-point loss to Utah. Otherwise, the Rockets have been killing teams. That stretch includes a double-digit win in Houston last Monday over the New York Knicks in a game Westbrook missed with a thumb issue.
The two teams will do battle again tonight, this time at Madison Square Garden. Houston opened as 8.5-point favorites at MyBookie, but the line has since moved to Houston -10. The game also has a sizable 230.5 over/under.
Rockets have won 6 straight games to pull to within 1.5 games of Clippers (for No. 3 spot in Western Conference).
Knicks have gone 4-6 over their last 10 games.
Rockets beat Knicks in Houston 123-112 exactly a week ago.
The Westbrook-James Harden experiment seemed to be headed nowhere fast earlier this season. Westbrook was chucking 6 3-pointers per game while shooting about 22 percent, which was an absolute disaster. Then, something changed. Westbrook decided to essentially stop settling for threes sometime in December, and he’s been completely unstoppable ever since.
Westbrook’s best attribute as a player has always been his athleticism. He’s probably the most physical point guard in the league, and your standard NBA defender has no real hope of matching his speed, strength or burst. So, he’s finally started using those skills to his advantage, and the results have been phenomenal. On the season, the former MVP is averaging 27.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game. Most impressively, he’s shooting better than 47 percent from the field thanks to his newly-improved efficient shot selection. Russ has shot better than 45 percent from the field just twice for a full season in his entire career to this point.
Westbrook’s decision to relentlessly charge the basket has helped make up for the loss of the easy buckets that Capela would contribute.
Westbrook is averaging more than 20 points per game in the paint, which leads the NBA. Not even Giannis Antetokounmpo is scoring as well around the rim.
Westbrook’s dominance was on full display on Saturday night when the Rockets erased a 17-point deficit to earn a comeback win in Boston over a hot Celtics team. With James Harden having an off night (7-for-24 from the field), Russ took charge. The UCLA product finished with a game-high 41 points in 43 minutes. He shot 16-for-27 from the floor and made one of his two tries from 3-point range.
Knicks’ Dismal Season
It’s been yet another lost season in New York. The Knicks have the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference (18-42) and they’re only a game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks for the worst mark.
Their 9-20 home record is the fourth-worst in the league, and they have a disastrous 4-22 record against teams with winning records.
There just isn’t much to like about this team at all. The Knicks have a lot of hope in former No. 3 overall pick RJ Barrett, but the Duke product has endured an up-and-down rookie season. He has shown flashes of being capable, but there are also stretches in which he will vanish completely. Barrett has averaged just under 14 points with 5 rebounds per game on the season, but he’s also shooting a dreary 31.8 percent from long range.
One of the few bright spots has been Julius Randle, who is nearly averaging a double-double. He put 17 points and 12 rebounds on the board last week against the Rockets, but his solid individual statistical campaign obviously hasn’t translated into wins.
New York has been surprisingly plucky against the spread despite their dreadful overall record. The Knicks are 31-28-1 against the spread on the year, while the Rockets are 29-30-0.
Rockets vs Knicks Pick
Houston picked up an 11-point win over the Knicks last Monday in a game Westbrook didn’t even play. With Westbrook expected to be in the lineup tonight, I just don’t know how New York will be able to keep this game close. The Rockets will try to turn it into a track meet, and they’re going to be firing away from downtown. The Knicks have allowed their opponents to shoot 38.5 percent from 3-point range, which is the second-worst mark in the league. Only the Warriors have been worse at defending the arc.
Naturally, that will play right into Houston’s hands. The Rockets are going to try to attempt 50 threes in this one, and there’s a pretty decent chance they make 20 or more. This game just has blowout written all over it. Take the Rockets to cover the double-digit spread here and don’t look back. The Rockets attempt a league-high 44.4 3-pointers per game.
Harden will have a big night and Houston will roll here. Bet on Rockets -10.
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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