Miami at Houston
Time: 7 PM (CT), NBA TV
Spread: HOU -9.5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Houston Rockets have won its past two games and seven of its past 10, but still trail No. 1 Golden State by 3.5 games in the Western Conference. Houston will host the red-hot Miami Heat as 9.5-point favorites, as it continues to pummel its opponents with the three ball. The over/under is set precariously at 214.5 points; precarious, because, the Heat are one of the finest defensive teams in the NBA under the headship of Erik Spolestra. The game will air at 7 PM (CT) on NBA TV.
Miami most recently has disposed of some quality opponents, proving itself to be among the elite in the East. The Heat knocked off the Toronto Raptors, then the Indiana Pacers, lost to the Chicago Bulls, then defeated the Milwaukee Bucks. Realistically, Miami could leap frog the Cleveland Cavaliers soon to position itself top-3 in the Conference for the 2018 playoffs. Over its past two it has lost to the Brooklyn Nets but knocked off Charlotte 106-105 last outing. Miami has won five of its last seven.
The Heat get it done with one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the league. Team-leading scorer Goran Dragic averages ‘only’ 17.3 points per game, but Miami boasts a league-best eight players who average 10 points per game or more. The depth the Heat have has mitigated the effects of a somewhat disappointing season from Dion Waiters, who is averaging just 14.3 points in 25 minutes a night. Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson all are a part of that double-figure-averaging core, and the team has fit together nicely with great chemistry, which has to in part be credited to the deft coaching of one of the league’s best, Erik Spoelstra.
Of course, this would go all in ignoring the Heat’s strong defensive attack. Miami has several lock down defenders, and Johnson’s ability to swing on rotations and come up with blocks and steals can hardly be ignored. Even if Justise Winslow is failing to become an adequate offensive threat (just six points per game), his defense has been paramount in the reasons the Heat are able to control the league’s best perimeter scorers. Miami holds teams to just 101.8 points per game, which is why the team succeeds, despite a negative 0.6 point differential overall. As Miami continues to gel together, its defense will be what puts it over the top if it is to be successful in advancing to the second round of the 2018 playoffs.
Houston, for its part, overcome a slump and now has won four of its past five to arrive at its current 32-12 mark. Mike D’Antoni is again putting in a bid for Coach of the Year honors, given the way he has seamlessly integrated Chris Paul to the offense, essentially giving the Rockets a two-point guard attack, with James Harden functioning as the other high usage guard in the high octane offense.
Houston most recently disposed of the hot Minnesota Timberwolves 116-98, and prior to that it had knocked off Phoenix, Portland and Chicago, with a loss to the L.A. Clippers sandwiched between.
In the win over the Wolves, Houston waxed defensively, limiting the Wolves to just 98 points, including just 17 in the opening quarter. The Rockets own attack was led by a hot-shooting Eric Gordon, who connected on 11 of 19 including 7 of 13 from three-point range, to score 30 points off the bench in 35 minutes.
Gordon will be in consideration for Sixth Man of the Year honors this season, and he effectively is the third guard in Houston’s rotation behind Harden and Paul.
Paul had 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds while posting a team-best +23 mark (tied with Gordon), and Harden had a bit of an off-night with just 10 points on 3 of 15 shooting.
The scary thing is, for opponents, Houston was able to win convincingly over a playoff contending team while its best player had one of his worst games.