So, let’s start with a preview of both teams and where they are at.
It’s no secret that the Rockets have been hit by an avalanche of injuries this season. Most importantly, Chris Paul and Clint Capela have missed a lot of games, and that has surely affected the
performance of the team. James Harden has also missed some playing time but has remained relatively healthy for the majority of the season.
Their sixth man, Eric Gordon, has also been on the sidelines for long periods. In fact, P.J. Tucker may be the only notable player to not miss any action this season. This did limit the rotation
but has also allowed James Harden to step up.
Harden has practically carried his team and is deservedly in the pole position for another MVP award.
The Beard has been averaging 36.6 points per game this year. And if we actually look at his last 30 matchups, he has a 41.5 average. He’s been putting up crazy numbers and is the sole reason why
the Rockets are in a better position than expected.
His streak of over 30 games with more than 30 points is out of this world, and he only needs one more to tie Wilt Chamberlain for the second-best record in this regard.
With the All-Star break now over, the team is looking at a very good chance to run the table. Chris Paul has been back for a while now, and it’s expected that Clint Capela will be available tonight. This will be a very welcome
sight for coach D’Antoni in what will arguably be the most important stretch of his team’s season.
Another positive for the Rockets is the fact that while they definitely relied heavily on Harden, they were also able to work in some rotation pieces in the squad with great success. The players
added from the buyout market have made a good contribution and may prove to be the final ingredients for a neatly packed roster.
Austin Rivers has shown terrific ability as a playmaker and defender. Kenneth Faried was a more than adequate backup for Capela while the starting center was out. Their latest addition, Iman
Shumpert, is an experienced 3-and-D player. The Rockets have been missing such impact since they parted ways with Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute in the summer.
With the starters now healthy, I expect that Harden, Paul, Capela, Gordon, and P.J. Tucker will get the bulk of the playing time tonight. They will be assisted by the new recruits and Gerald
Green. Although the management was looking to bring in one more piece, Houston has quite the roster as it stands.
I don’t remember the team having so many good players in rotation before, and this surely bodes well for the rest of the season. The coach will have the luxury of resting some of them and now has
a full set of players who are healthy and determined to better their position in the West.
The Rockets are currently sitting on the fifth seed and are leading their division with the Spurs in second place. What was quickly turning into a disastrous year is now looking very positive at
a crucial time. The team is a force to be reckoned with once again.
Los Angeles Lakers
The All-Star break provides a good opportunity for the team to stop and
reflect on the season so far. Although the Lakers weren’t that convincing at the start of the season, they were at least lingering around the playoff spots. Now, after playing 57 games, they
are in a totally different position.
Sure enough, LeBron’s injury played a big part in the downfall. The franchise was also hit hard by the Anthony Davis trade drama and the way it unfolded. Although Magic and coach Walton deny it,
there is no way that it wasn’t affecting the team’s performance on the court.
Half of the guys playing didn’t know if they were going to be on the team the next day. Given that most of them are still inexperienced, it’s no surprise that they didn’t handle it correctly.
With the trade window now firmly shut, the Lakers’ only chance of reaching the playoffs is to rally and lock in on their goal.
The question now is whether LeBron can fully focus on his basketball. There are rumors flying around that his relationship with Luke Walton is not the best. I don’t know if we should make any
grand conclusions from those just yet. Ever since James joined the Lakers, talk about him not liking Walton has been everywhere.
The coach has, of course, dismissed it all, but
LeBron has been pretty quiet on the subject. My thinking is that there is no real problem between the two. I’d guess they’re not best buddies but are still capable of working together.
Both are very professional, and they have only one thing on their mind for the season. The Lakers need to get into the playoffs, and even if they’re not on the best terms, they understand that
the team has to stick together to do that.
With only 25 games left, they need to start working their way up the table fast. One issue is that they will have to do that without Lonzo Ball for a few more weeks. Lonzo may not be in the
running for any awards this year, but he does provide a defensive edge that no one else on the team can.
Looking at the table, I assume that the Lakers will need around 17 wins to leapfrog the Clippers and the Kings. The problem is, I’m not quite seeing where those will come from. On top of their
bad form, the team doesn’t have an easy schedule ahead.
They will have to play most of the top seeds, and their record against them this season has been horrific. They also have two games against their direct rival the Clippers and one against
Sacramento, which could prove vital.
The bottom line is that the team needs at least 45 wins, and if they’re serious about making the cut, they should start by winning the game tonight. It will be interesting to see whether the mood
has changed at the Staples Center. If LeBron can rally those players, it will be a big achievement in my view.
Prediction and Betting Pick
This game will be a great opportunity for the Lakers to turn a page, but even with the home court advantage, the odds are definitely stacked against them. The Rockets have all their major players
back, and James Harden is still in beast mode.
The LA outfit only added Reggie Bullock and Mike Muscala, who are hardly going to provide a significant boost. On the other hand, Houston now boasts one of the best sets of rotation players in
the league. The King will have to bring his A-game, and even then, he might be overpowered.
The spread is a bit lower than I expected. In these circumstances, I believe the best bet here is to back the Rockets to cover it.
PICKHouston Rockets (-2.5)-115
Boston Celtics vs. Milwaukee Bucks Preview
This could have easily been my feature game, but I opted for the Rockets vs. Lakers because it might have a much bigger impact on the season. Nevertheless, the Celtics and Bucks are battling for
the top positions in the East, and this game is bound to present a few good betting opportunities.
Celtics vs. Bucks Odds
Boston Celtics (+5.5)-115
Milwaukee Bucks (-5.5)-105
The Celtics have been on a good run since the turn of the year, but they still have a lot to figure out. It was expected that LeBron leaving the East would pave their way to the top seed and the
finals. It hasn’t panned out that way so far. Boston is sitting in fourth at the moment, a game behind the Pacers and on par with Philadelphia.
They went into the All-Star weekend on a two-game winning streak after impressively putting away the new-look Sixers and the Pistons. What made it even more impressive was the fact that Kyrie
Irving missed those two games with a knee injury.
However, Kyrie played 25 minutes for Team LeBron on Sunday and has confirmed that he feels healthy. This is a great boost, as the team will most definitely need their best player for the upcoming
stretch. Gordon Hayward and Jayson Tatum are also picking up their game, so it’s looking good for Boston.
The problem is that sometimes they get complacent on the court and pay the price. It happened in back-to-back games against the LA teams in which Boston was leading by a lot but ultimately failed
to win either of the two encounters.
The Bucks have also won their last two games, bouncing back from a big disappointment against the Orlando Magic. Giannis was missing in that game, and it showed. Although the team now has a
quality roster, they still mostly depend on their main man.
The Greek Freak is averaging 27.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. He also leads the league with an average of 8.3 field goals per game within five feet of the basket and holds the first
place in dunks. Normally, I would say these numbers are enough to warrant an MVP award, but the competition from Harden and Westbrook is nowhere near normal.
The Bucks’ new addition, Nikola Mirotic, is still waiting for his debut, and there is no concrete information on when he will be available. Apart from him, it looks like the Bucks will be able to
unleash all their firepower on the Celtics.
Boston vs. Milwaukee Prediction and Pick
I think this one will be very tight. The Greek Freak will be hard to stop, but so will the trio of Irving, Hayward, and Tatum. The Bucks have the home court advantage. However, Boston has shown
that they play better against the top teams.
I still think the Bucks will win it, but the spread is a bit high for my taste. Given that Boston has a good defense and their opponents haven’t been scoring all that much recently, I’ll go with
the under market here.
Miami Heat vs. Philadelphia 76ers Preview
The two teams are looking at different ends of the playoff spots, but the Heat are not to be underestimated. Let’s check out the latest around both franchises and see if there is any betting
Heat vs. 76ers Odds
Miami Heat (+6.5)-110
Philadelphia 76ers (-6.5)-110
The Heat are on a 4-6 run but were able to dispatch the Dallas Mavericks right before the All-Star game. Dwyane Wade finished as the leading scorer for Miami with 22 points, proving again that he
has what it takes to go out in style. After the game, he even buried the hatchet with long-time rival Dirk Nowitzki.
That’s what basketball fans want to see. It was a great touch, and the Dallas fans showed class by appreciating D-Wade in his last visit to Dallas.
Looking ahead, the Heat will be aiming for one of the last two playoff spots. They are currently occupied by the Hornets and Pistons. Orlando is also on a positive run and is pushing from behind.
For now, it looks like the trio of Wade, Winslow, and Whiteside has this covered.
Winslow, in particular, has been very good this season, and it’ll be interesting to see whether he will hold down the role of starting point guard when Goran Dragic returns.
When it comes to Philadelphia, I think everything regarding their frightening new roster has been said. It’s time for the team to start producing on the court now. They did destroy the Lakers in
one of Tobias Harris’ first games but also lost at home to Boston — and with Kyrie Irving not playing, I might add.
The expectations are now very high, and in my view, anything lower than the third seed will not be a good final position for the team. The starting lineup looks great, but they will also have to
put some effort into figuring out the rotation.
Players like James Ennis, Jonathon Simmons, and Boban Marjanovic can be very valuable if used correctly.
Miami vs. Philadelphia Prediction and Pick
It’s the perfect time for Philly to stamp their authority on the league. Their roster is healthy, and they have the home court advantage, so there should be no excuses here.
Miami has been good on the road, and they recently nearly toppled the champions, but I think this game will be out of their reach. The Sixers are looking to put things right after the Celtics
game and will mean business.
That is why I will be backing Embiid and company to cover the spread here.
PICKPhiladelphia 76ers (-6.5)-110
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Brooklyn Nets Preview
On paper, the fourth in the West against the sixth in the East should be a foregone conclusion, but the Nets have surprised us many times this season. Will they do it again?
Blazers vs. Nets Odds
Portland Trail Blazers (-1)-110
Brooklyn Nets (+1)-110
Both teams have provided great entertainment this season and are among the positive ones in their respective conferences. Portland has been very solid at home and can hurt any team. This was
highlighted in their last game when they won 129-107 against the Golden State Warriors.
We have grown accustomed to the Blazers being a good team and reaching the playoffs, but despite their many good qualities, they still come up short in the postseason. Lillard, McCollum, and
Nurkic are a good core. However, the team is still some way off from challenging for the top.
One big issue is their performances on the road. They have only won ten games, which is one of the worst records of a playoff team this season. And the addition of Rodney Hood during the trade
window is not going to change that.
The Nets have emerged as a very organized team that can play equally well at home and on the road. I don’t expect they will challenge the likes of the Raptors and Bucks but are good value for the
sixth place in the East.
Not that those two achievements make them contenders or anything, but they do contribute to the overall positive mood in the team. With Caris LeVert back in the frame and Spencer Dinwiddie
nearing his return, I expect the Nets will be able to finish the season strongly.
Portland vs. Brooklyn Prediction and Pick
I believe Portland will have a very hard time in New York. Their record suggests that away games can get messy, and the Nets are a very tough nut to crack. In any case, I believe it will be a
tight game with a lot of buckets at both ends.
The odds provided by the bookies seem to agree with that assessment. Since the spread does not represent good value here, I’m going for the over market.
This wraps up my NBA betting preview for tonight’s games.
If you have any thoughts on my analysis, my predictions, or my picks, please let me know in the comment section below.
I’ll be back again soon with my next round of NBA picks, so be sure to keep checking the GamblingSites.com blog.