Rockets at Cavaliers – NBA Pick for February 3rd
Spread: Rockets -4 (-105)
Saturday brings us a healthy 9-game NBA slate, but the marquee matchup is set to go down in Cleveland between the Houston Rockets and the Cavaliers. The Rockets come into this one at 37-13 and nipping at the heels of the Golden State Warriors. Houston has also won 3 straight.
The Cavs, meanwhile, have been struggling for a long time. Cleveland has dropped into the No. 3 spot in the east, and they’re currently just a game and a half up on Washington and 2 ahead of Miami. Considering they’re now playing without Kevin Love for the next several weeks, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see the Cavs continue to fall in the standings.
They’ve quietly won 3 of their last 4, though, including a gritty 91-89 win over the Heat. The Cavaliers have struggled to integrate Isaiah Thomas, who is still working his way back from offseason hip surgery. Thomas has always been too small to be a workable defender at the NBA level, and having a balky hip certainly hasn’t helped him any on that end of the floor. He’s been able to rise to stardom on the shoulders of an excellent offensive game, but that’s been missing so far this season.
Thomas is shooting just 36 percent from the floor and 25 percent from long range. Far too many Cavalier possessions have ended with Thomas pounding the dribble for several seconds before hoisting an ill-advised shot. It’s no surprise that Cleveland was a more efficient offense before he got healthy, but it’s something LeBron James and Ty Lue are going to have to figure out moving forward. Thomas was arguably the main piece of the Kyrie Irving trade, so it’s doubtful we see him getting benched anytime soon.
If the Cavs are going to have any prayer of keeping up with the Rockets tonight, they’re going to have to be hitting the 3-ball. They currently rank 12th in the league as a team in 3-point percentage (36.3), but they were dead last in the month of January (31.6). Not to pile on, but much of that has to do with Thomas, who isn’t making the most of his 6 attempts per game.
The Rockets are currently without the injured Trevor Ariza, but they do have enough capable wing defenders to survive without him. 2 new additions, Luc Mbah a Moute and PJ Tucker, are more than capable of picking up the defensive slack. Not to mention Chris Paul, who is still among the elite defenders at the point guard spot.
Obviously, Paul is a huge cog in the offense, but James Harden is what makes the thing tick. The Beard is the clear MVP frontrunner at this point, and a couple of games ago he posted one of the most amazing stat lines in NBA history. He became the first player in the history of the league to record a triple-double while also scoring at least 60 points. He also shot a tidy 19-30 from the floor in 46 minutes against the Magic.
The Cavs are at home tonight, but they’ve been a mess on the defensive end of the floor all season. The Rockets, meanwhile, are arguably the toughest team to defend not named the Golden State Warriors. It’s tough to imagine how the Cavaliers are going to keep up tonight if Houston is humming along at peak efficiency.
Cleveland could get up for this national TV showcase game, but the Rockets look like a brutal matchup for them. Take Houston to cover the 4-point spread in this one.
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