Indiana at Houston
Time: 7 PM (CT), NBA League Pass
Spread: HOU -12
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Indiana Pacers are heating up as winners of seven of its past 10. Continuing that hot play will be difficult in Houston, as the Rockets are 12-point favorites as the teams clash tonight at 7 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass. Houston sits at 16-4 atop the Western Conference, and the Rockets have won its past five games and nine of its past 10 to ascend to the Conference’s top slot, 1.5 games ahead of defending champion Golden State.
Houston just received an injection into its lineup, too. Chris Paul totaled the most assists ever of any Houston Rocket through his first five games with the franchise, and there seems to be little doubt that he and James Harden can do more than simply co-exist as a backcourt, but actually thrive together. Despite both being ball-dominant guards, Paul has found his nice so quickly through six games this season. He has reduced his scoring load at just 10 points per game, but is still dropping 10.8 assists to go with that. His defense is undeniable. And Harden has just kept right on ticking despite the team’s approach now changing to an (arguable) tow-point guard set.
Harden leads the Association in scoring at 31.7 points pregame while still dropping 9.8 assists a night. With an unfathomable PER of 30.6, Harden has been the league’s MVP this season thus far. The deliverance of Eric Gordon cannot go unmentioned: Houston’s No. 2 option is just under 20 points per game this season while hitting 3.3 threes per game at a (low) 31.7 mark. Harden is over 40 percent from three on 11.1 attempts per game, as Houston connects on 16.1 threes per game on 44.6 attempts per night.
Head coach Mike D’Antoni has only refined his offensive mastermind to adapt to this new NBA, and Houston’s defense is hardly as bad as soothsayers will claim. The Rockets play at a fast-pace, but with Clint Capela defending the rim and Houston funneling slashers to him, its defense is far more formidable than any casual fan may notice. Sure, it is difficult to credit D’Antoni with much of that, but the Rockets are a better two-way team than given credit for, and due to that, they are absolute threats to the Warriors this postseason.
For the Indiana Pacers, it has all been about the strong play of newly-acquired Victor Oladipo. The former Orlando Magic and OKC Thunder guard has found his home, in his home state nonetheless. A home-grown product who attended Indiana for college, Oladipo is having a career season at 23.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. He is making Pacers fans forget Paul George, who costly was the chip that was used to acquire Oladipo (and second-year center Domantas Sabonis). Sabonis has been good in his new role with 13.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game, showing OKC he was never really meant to be a stretch-4, as he was during his rookie campaign last season.
Beyond that all, Myles Turner and Bogan Bogdanovic are both having solid seasons, though perhaps more than “Solid” was expected from Turner. Truthfully, there is an element of disappointment to his 14 points per game, but as just a third-year big man, consistency is still slow in coming for the Texas product. With comparisons to LaMarcus Aldridge, more is expected of the big man, but his defensive contributions have not gone unnoticed.
At 2.43 blocks per game, Turner is one of the game’s most feared rim protectors, and the offense will come. Indiana surely is not suffering much, as the Pacers average 108.9 points per game. This could be a surprise game tonight, but to see the Pacers overcome a double-digit spread might be a bit much. We expect they fall in a close one.