Golden State at Houston
Time: 8:30 PM CT (ESPN)
Spread: HOU -3.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Golden State Warriors have lost five of its last 10, but it still sits atop the Western Conference standings and is the prohibitive favorite in the West with the return of DeMarcus Cousins to round out its starting lineup with five All-Stars. Golden State leads No. 2 Denver by just one game in the standings.
Cousins returned Jan 18 against the L.A. Clippers and scored 14 points in his debut on 5 of 11 shooting. He is still facing minutes restrictions, but that is expected after tearing an ACL and rehabbing for the better part of 12 months. Cousins eventually should give the Warriors a needed interior presence on both ends of the court. While he has been maligned over his career for his attitude and behavior, perhaps being on a true winning team will bring some sort of Renaissance for the center. Cousins has averaged 21.5 points and 11 rebounds over his 10-year NBA career and is widely regarded as one of the most skilled and best stretch-5s in the business. Adding a weapon like that to Golden State should only transform the Warriors into a more unbeatable team as he rounds into shape.
It certainly should strike a little fear into teams to imagine what this team can do with a healthy roster. Stephen Curry is turning in an MVP caliber season with his 29.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, and Kevin Durant is still the most efficient scorer in the league. Thompson can get as hot as anyone in the Association, and Draymond Green’s versatility—hopefully— will tie it all together, as he is one of the best high post passers in the league.
HOU TEAM NOTES:
Though the Rockets have struggled this season, the team has won seven of its last 10 overall and still is situated No. 5 in the Western Conference. It has also won its last six to pull within one half-game of OKC in the Western Conference standings.
The team lost Trevor Ariza over the offseason, hoping that replacing him with Carmelo Anthony would solve its problems. It did none of that, and the team has taken many steps back defensively, which ultimately is the reason it has failed to succeed at the rate it did a year ago. Houston is surrendering 111.1 points per game and scoring 113.2 itself, which yields just a 2.1 positive, point differential.
The Rockets must tighten up its defense significantly to rejoin the realm of Western Conference contenders, which many are feeling can still happen.
Clint Capela had been making a strong bid to be an All-Star and it is easy to see why Houston felt comfortable releasing Dwight Howard to clear the way for Capela.
Truth be told, he has a little of young Dwight, in him and his game. Capela averages 17.6 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.88 blocks per game while posting the second-best PER on the Rockets. He has proven to be the anchor of a defense that greatly needs perimeter improvement, and it is hardly all the fault of Harden as the narrative often goes.
Harden is playing passing lanes well, coming up with 2-plus steals a game, while heading the offensive attack in his usual masterful way. Harden’s averaging 33.9 points and 8.6 assists per game.
ATS TRENDS (c/o COVERS):