Betting odds c/o Bovada
Chris Paul came through one of his biggest professional games in Game 7 against the San Antonio Spurs, willing the Clippers to advance to the Semis and this matchup against the Houston Rockets. With a lingering hamstring injury, the Clips will likely be without its star playmaker. NBA oddsmakers at Bovada are expecting that to have a dramatic difference, setting the NBA live line 6.5 points in favor of the hosting Houston Rockets. The betting total is set high at 212, and for an explanation of how to bet these odds see our NBA odds explained.
The Houston Rockets defeated the Dallas Mavericks 4-1 in the first round, and the overwhelming disappointment right now seems to be for James Harden to prove to the league why he deserved the MVP award instead of Stephen Curry (even if it it were true). Harden had a phenomenal season for the Rockets, and he continued his strong play against Dallas. In the opening five games, Harden averaged 28.4 points, 7.8 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.
The Rockets also got a strong series from Josh Smith, who averaged 17.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. Dwight Howard had his spurts of looking like his former dominant self, and he averaged 16.6 points, 13.8 rebounds and three blocks per game. The Rockets are stocked with talent, and there will be a number of key matchups to look at on the court.
Let’s look quickly at a few:
James Harden vs. J.J. Redick
J.J. Redick hit two crucial three-point shots in the fourth quarter of the Game 7 win against San Antonio, and one thing about Redick is that he can make a defender work. Expect J.J. to work Harden around plenty of screens, while also making sure to exert all his extra energy to help control Harden on the other end. Redick has improved a lot as a defender in his time in the NBA, and for those who insist the former Duke Blue Devil is a liability, it shows that they really haven’t been watching.
Redick will have his hands full with Harden, and he won’t get the duty alone: expect Matt Barnes to switch on to Harden a good bit, while Jamal Crawford will see time on Harden as well. Even so, the trio is likely to encounter a motivated Harden. Beard is capable of dancing around and getting off to big nights, and this high scoring series is bound to feature at least a couple forty point games from Harden.
Dwight Howard vs. DeAndre Jordan
Dwight Howard is back in full force, if only defensively and on the boards. That’s an area that DeAndre Jordan excels in, and he’ll be playing for a max contract (that he’s almost assured to receive). Jordan led the league in rebounding this year with 15 per game, and Howard averaged 13.8 in the opening round win against the Mavs. Jordan is capable of bodying up with Howard and making him work, while Howard can’t just help defensively every turn and abandon Jordan at the rim. While DeAndre can’t really shoot worth a lick, he finishes at the rim far better than anyone in the league, even including his high flying teammate Blake Griffin.
Josh Smith vs. Blake Griffin
With Chris Paul out to start the series, Blake Griffin will be looking to make more plays and play more of a point-forward role. It’s something few envisioned him doing when he began his NBA career, but Griffin has honed a mid-range jumpshot and become very adept at putting the ball on the court. He initiates fast breaks, and if the Clippers are to come with an underdog victory in game 1, it’s likely going to be because Griffin found a way to get going. Josh Smith is capable of being a great defender, and he will need to be hyper-focused because Griffin’s role is due to change until Paul returns to the court. Expect a lot of pick and roll sets with Griffin and both Redick or Jamal Crawford.
The Clippers are rolling on momentum from the series victory over the Spurs, but it’s a lot to overcome the absence of Paul against a team as talented as Houston. The Clippers are going to have to re-invent their offense in a night to come up with the underdog win, but more likely is that the Rockets cover the spread and storm off to a double-digit victory at home.