Houston Rockets at Charlotte Hornets
Time: 7:05 PM ET
Spread: HOU -12
Betting odds c/o Bovada
The Houston Rockets have won seven of its past 10 games and will enter tonight’s matchup in Charlotte as 12-point favorites over the Hornets. NBA live lines also showed the total at 200, and for an explanation of how to bet both these figures, see our NBA odds explained.
Houston recently brought Dwight Howard back into the lineup, and its defense has looked markedly better, as noted by Houston beat writer Jonathan Feigan. The Rockets are 54-26 but sit situated sixth in the West. If the postseason began today, the Rockets would square off in a tough matchup against the No. 3 L.A. Clippers. Howard will be taking the game off, however.
The standings are still subject to minor shakeups, however. Charlotte, meanwhile, will be returning to the lottery and is mathematically out of the postseason already at 33-47. The Hornets have dropped four straight and seven of its past 10, and though the team is passable at home (19-21), it was horrid on the road this season, 14-26. The Hornets are also just 8-19 against Western Conference opponents, while the Houston Rockets are 22-7 against the East.
James Harden is in contention for the league MVP award. He’s seeing 36.9 minutes a game this season while boasting averages of 27.5 points, 6.9 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game. His PER of 26.8 attests to his great efficiency of both knocking down his field goals and getting to the free throw line, where he attempts over 10 per game at an 87 percent clip.
Harden shoots 6.9 threes a game at a 37.8 percent mark. The Rockets have eight players averaging double figures in scoring, and the bench has been very productive accordingly. In past seasons, it was depth that held the Rockets back, but the bench has thrived, and the frontcourt rotation is very strong since flushing it out with Josh Smith.
Smith has posted 11.9 points per game, but he is shooting just 32.8 percent from three point range and 43.9 percent form the floor. Never a high efficiency player, Smith finds other ways to make his impacts too, averaging 2.1 steals/blocks per game. Terrence Jones and Corey Brewer are equally adept at forcing turnovers and helping the Rockets get out in transition.
Houston ranks 10th in defensive rating (103.8), while holding opponents to 100.7 per game. The Rockets rank 12th in offensive rating, and fifth in the NBA in scoring (103.8 per game).
The Hornets have won two more games than basketball-reference expected it to, but still rank 28th in the NBA in scoring and 28th in offensive rating. Defensively, the team has been very solid, ranking 8th in defensive rating and allowing the 8th fewest points (97.4). The Hornets do lack scorers to be sure. Mo Williams has helped some, but Kemba Walker is having to do too much, and his teammates are continuing to blow his assists.
While taking the moniker Hornets brought a lot of nostalgia initially, it’s painfully obvious this team is still the horrible Bobcats team it always has been. Michael Kidd Gilchrist dramatically improved the form of his jumpshot and is hitting 46.5 percent from the floor this season, but he’s still also only averaging 10.9 points per game.
Gerald Henderson has continued to be mediocre and has no ceiling above what he is. Al Jefferson is declining and has missed his last five games with right knee soreness, and will be out tonight. Lance Stephenson is missing the remainder of the season with a sprained toe and has been a horrible bust of a free agent signing.
It’s difficult to imagine how Charlotte can take the next step with a roster so devoid of shining parts. Walker at times looks like an All-NBA guard, but it’s difficult to assess how much better he would be with better pieces around him.