Houston Rockets (24-17) (21-19-1 ATS) @ Orlando Magic (18-24) (21-21 ATS)
NBA Regular Season: Sunday, January 13th, 2019 at 6:00 pm ET (Amway Center)
Moneyline: Houston -234, Orlando +206
Here we go, it’s fast versus slow, high-tempo versus methodical. Ok, so the old slow and methodical half-court game is from a different era. The slowest paced team this year scores at least 100.9 points per game. But comparatively, we have some polarity between the Rockets and Magic in terms of pace and what direction they’re currently heading in this season.
We’re at the point where teams are beginning to mold themselves and cement a play style they’ll accustom theirselves to moving forward. Houston is becoming the team we thought they were and are now morphing into the staple Mike D’Antoni tempo. That means scoring quickly but efficiently (1.101, ranked 4th); this means spacing for James Harden to get one-on-one opportunities in order to playmake for other shooters (8.6 APG), create space with his dribbling ability, or to get fouled going to the rim (9.42 FTM/G)–with possible and-one chances; which means the opposing team’s going to have to score a heck of a lot of points in return. Why play defense when you can score way more points than the other team, at will. There is a perk, however. Houston’s perimeter defenders like Gerald Green and Eric Gordon have disrupted opposing shooters (ranked 3rd in opponent 3PM/GM). This is beneficial considering how hard teams have to work to outscore Houston.
Back to the offense, the Rockets M.O. Harden hasn’t scored less than 32 in a game since December 11 against Portland, over a month ago. He’s fresh off a 10 game stretch where he averaged 40.8 ppg, 9 apg, and 6.1 rpg. More recently, he passed Russell Westbrook for the most 40 point triple doubles (12) in history. This is madness. We’re left wondering and trying to pinpoint, especially you bettors out there, when it will be safe to pull the plug on Harden. An off game is inventible. It happens. The question remains: when exactly should you bet the other way? The most crazy scenario that could happen is if he keeps this monstrous consistency going through the season and possibly up until the NBA finals.
Just a brutal road trip it was for Orlando. They went 1-5 before squeezing past Boston at home in their last out. But they’ve lost 9 of their last 13 after being just under .500 at 14-15. During that time they held the top spot in the southeast division. They’ve lost some crucial battles through their slump. Losses came to Chicago and Phoenix along the way. Then, Orlando received double digit beat downs in 5 of their last 6 road trips including losses at Minnesota and Sacramento. Hopefully for the Magic, they’re able to find their stride especially when Orlando’s just 1.5 games behind 8th seed Charlotte.
If the team aims to solidify Nikola Vucevic in the all-star game, they’re going to need help convincing voters by winning. Vucevic is their heart and soul and averages 20.18 PPG, 11.95 RPG, 3.70 APG, 1.02 SPG, and 1.8 BPG. I don’t see much changing for this team albeit a trade. Injuries to players like Aaron Gordon and Jonathon Simmons have hampered their consistency, but even with Gordon having been back and able to play the stretch-four position, let’s face the music; Orlando is one of the slowest teams and averages the fourth fewest points per game (103.0). The Magic scored even much lower than that during their last 3 games (94.7, ranked 2nd worst). The defense still holds its own by allowing the sixth fewest points in the paint per game (46.2). Part of that is due to Orlando’s length inside with Vucevic, Gordon, Jonathan Isaac, and Mohammed Bamba. Combined, they’re tenth in blocks (5.4).
Houston is 13-5 SU after having won 4 or 5 of their last 6 games
0-3 ATS after covering as a double digit favorite
3-0 ATS after leading in their previous game by 20 or more points at the half
The OVER is 13-6 after playing a home game
Orlando is 5-2 SU on Sunday games
11-19 SU as the underdog
Orlando is 7-12 ATS in non-conference games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Orlando’s last 5 games at home
Orlando and Houston meet for the first time. There’s been a little movement in the spread (-5.5) in favor of the Rockets. But I think Houston comes back down to earth a little bit after a ridiculous blowout win. The Magic are a healthier team right now as Chris Paul and Eric Gordon will sit out another game. I think Houston will cover still, but barely.
Pick: Houston -234