NBA Southwest Division Battle: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets

New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets
Toyota Center – Houston, Texas

Sunday, April 12, 2015, 7:05 pm Eastern, TV: NBA League Pass
Opening Line: Houston -4
Current Line: Houston -5 1/2 (-115)
Opening Total: 200
Current Total: 200
Opening Money Line: Rockets -240 / Pelicans +200
Current Money Line: Rockets -235 / Pelicans +195

The Rockets host the Pelicans in a battle of Southwest playoff contenders.
The Rockets host the Pelicans in a battle of Southwest playoff contenders.

Currently, all five Southwest Division teams would make the playoffs in the Western Conference. An entire division hasn’t made the playoffs since the Central Division in 2006. All five teams in the Southwest are above .500 though unlike the Central Division that year. Two of the Southwest Division teams meet Sunday as the Houston Rockets host the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Rockets are 53-26 and in third place in the division, but Houston is only a half game behind the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs for the division lead. The Rockets are currently the #6 seed in the playoffs but could easily move up as far as the #2 seed. The Los Angeles Clippers are also tied with Memphis and San Antonio and will figure into the seeding along with the Northwest Division champion Portland Trail Blazers. Portland is assured of the #4 seed even though they are 3 games behind. Whichever team gets the #5 seed will get home court advantage against Portland in the first round because they will have a better record.

New Orleans is 43-36 and tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the #8 seed. However, New Orleans holds the head to head tie-breaker over Oklahoma City. If New Orleans makes the playoffs, they will play the #1 seed Golden State Warriors in the first round. Even though the Pelicans are in last place in the Southwest, they would be no worse than third in any other division.

New Orleans leads the series 2-1 against Houston this season. The Pelicans won 99-90 in Houston December 18 to snap a six game losing streak against the Rockets at the Toyota Center. New Orleans won at home January 2 111-83, but the Rockets won the last meeting in New Orleans 95-93 March 25.

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New Orleans is coached by Monty Williams. The Pelicans have gone 6-2 in their last 8 games, after a four game losing streak. New Orleans won at home against the Phoenix Suns 90-75 Friday night. The Pelicans are 44-35 ATS and the total is 40-39 this season. New Orleans was a 9 point favorite against Phoenix and the total was 194.

Houston is coached by Kevin McHale. The Rockets were swept in a home and home by the red hot San Antonio Spurs, to knock the Rockets out of first place in the division. Houston lost at home Friday night to San Antonio 104-103. The Rockets are 46-33 ATS and the total is  38-41 this season. Houston was a 3.5 point home underdog to the Spurs and the total was 204.

New Orleans is outscoring teams 99-98 this season. The Pelicans are shooting 45.6% from the field and 37% from 3 point range. New Orleans is in the top ten in both categories in the NBA. The Pelicans make 75.2% of their free throws. Opponents are shooting 45.5% from the field and 33.5% from 3 point range. New Orleans is #2 in three point defense but #21 in field goal defense. The Pelicans average 43.7 rebounds per game and opponents average 41.6 per game. New Orleans is #6 in rebounds allowed. The Pelicans average 22.1 assists, 12.7 turnovers, 6.7 steals and 6.2 blocks per game.

Anthony Davis averages 24.2 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.5 steals and 2.9 blocks per game. He is considered a dark horse for the MVP. Davis is probable after suffering a throat contusion Friday night against Phoenix. Tyreke Evans averages 16.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Jrue Holiday averages 14.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He is probable with a leg injury. Ryan Anderson averages 13.9 points, and 4.9 rebounds per game. Eric Gordon averages 13.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Norris Cole averages 10.2 points, 1.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. Quincy Pondexter averages 9.2 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Dante Cunningham is questionable with a knee injury.

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Houston is outscoring teams 104-101 this season. The Rockets are #5 in scoring. Houston is shooting 44.2% from the field and 34.8% from 3 point range. The Rockets make 71.5% of their free throws and are #27 in that category. Opponents are shooting 44.4% from the field and 32.1% from 3 point range. Houston leads the league in 3 point defense. The Rockets average 43.6 rebounds per game and opponents average 43.9 per game. Houston averages 22.2 assists, 16.1 turnovers, 9.5 steals and 4.8 blocks per game.

James Harden is one of the top two MVP candidates along with Golden State’s Stephen Curry. Harden averages 27.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Dwight Howard averages 15.7 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. He has missed about half the season with various injuries. Trevor Ariza averages 13 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. Donatas Motiejunas is out for the season with a back injury. He averaged 12 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. Josh Smith averages 11.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.2 blocks per game. Terrance Jones averages 11.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.  Corey Brewer averages 11.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals per game. Patrick Beverley averages 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds 4.4 assists and 1.1 steals per game. He is out for the season with a broken wrist. Kostas Papanikolaou is questionable with an ankle injury.

New Orleans is 9-1 ATS in Sunday games, 4-1 on one day rest, 9-3 against Southwest teams, 2-5 after a straight up win, and in road games, and 1-4 against teams with winning home records.  The underdog is 7-1-1 ATS in this series recently. The Pelicans are 15-5-1 ATS against the Rockets recently, including 7-2-1 in Houston.

Houston is 4-0 ATS in Sunday games, 6-1 after allowing 100 points or more, 5-1 after scoring 100 points or more, 12-4 on one day rest, 20-7 after a straight up loss, 5-2 against teams with winning records, and 16-7 at home. The under is 20-6-1 in this series recently including 5-2 in Houston.

The Pelicans are playing very well right now and could throw a scare into powerful Golden State in the first round. Houston needs this game too though and doesn’t want to lose 3 straight games. I think the Rockets win to keep pace with the Grizzlies and Spurs.

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