Home Cookin’: Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks

Houston Rockets AT Atlanta Hawks
January 15th, 2011 at 7 PM EST
Opening Line:  Atlanta -7
Current Line:  Atlanta -8.5
Opening Total: 204
Current Total: 204
Opening Moneyline: Atl. -350 / Hou. +290
Current Moneyline: Atl. -470 / Hou. +360

Joe Johnson's size and strength will give the Rockets fits

Atlanta has been good at home, very good in fact, as winners of their last 10 at home.  That’s not a good sign for the Rockets, who despite being a decent team (17-23), are but 7-14 on the road and they have won just 2 of their last 10 games.

Kevin Martin, Houston’s leading scorer, is not a good defender, which won’t serve him well as Atlanta does most of their scoring from their potent back court of Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, and Jamal Crawford.  Crawford, in particular, has been explosive of late, and scored 36 last game against the Raptors.

“He’s a guy who can really heat up and score in bunches and he did that (Wednesday),” Joe Johnson said of Crawford. “He was basically unstoppable in the first half. When you’ve got guys like that coming off the bench, you’re a tough team.”

Martin will do some scoring of his own, as he averages better than 23 a game, but if he’s giving up 40 to Crawford, will that really matter?  Moreover, Joe Johnson has been on fire, as well, and has averaged 27.2 points per game on 52% shooting during the last 5 games, all Hawk wins.

Some betting trends:

Houston is 1-7 SU in their last 8 games and 5-10 SU in their last 15 on the road.  The total has gone UNDER in 12 of their last 18 against Atlanta and it has gone UNDER in 6 of their last 9 against the Hawks, as well.  The Rockets are 1-5 SU in their last 6 on the road against Atlanta and are 4-7-1 ATS  in their last 12 in Atlanta, too.

The total has gone OVER in 5 of Atlanta’s last 6 games and they are 5-0 SU in their last 5.  The total has gone UNDER in 5 of their last 6 at home and they are 5-0 SU in their last 5 at home.  The total has also gone UNDER in 12 of their last 18 against the Rockets and they are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 against Houston.

Key matchups:

Kevin Martin/Aaron Brooks/Kyle Lowry vs.  Joe Johnson/Jamal Crawford/Mike Bibby

While Atlanta clearly has the advantage in their three guard rotation, don’t sleep on the Rockets.  Lowry and Brooks have formed an effective time share at point guard, each bringing their own element to the game.  Lowry is a great distributor and defender; Brooks is a scoring machine.  They’ve combined to bring a different facet to the offense and sometimes play together, which gives slower backcourts fits as they are both lightning quick.

While Joe Johnson might be able to manhandle them offensively and defensively, it is starting point guard Mike Bibby that will have the problems.  In his advanced age, Bibby has become a weak link on defense for the Hawks and his slow lateral motion will give him problems keeping Brooks and Lowry out of the paint.  Kevin Martin will do his damage from the perimeter as well, and has a knack for getting to the free throw line.  And yet, for all the problems that the Rockets can potentially give the Hawks on offense, the Hawks will give them just as many on the other end.  Crawford, the reigning 6th man of the year, is one of the best at scoring in bunches and has a great ability to close quarters and games in isolation play.  The Rockets really don’t have any answer for Crawford one on one, and at the same time they will have to contend with Joe Johnson’s size and versatility.  These backcourt matchups are the keys to the game for both teams and if Houston can at the minimum nuetralize Atlanta’s backcourt, they could cover the spread.

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