Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:00 PM EST. Odds subject to change.
Houston +7½ over L.A. Clippers
10:30 PM EST. By now everyone who pays attention to the basketball-world knows that the Clippers have been absolutely atrocious with James Harden. We can list out their many losses in a row and some of their more egregious stats, but the important point is that we all know the Clippers could be very dangerous if they knew how to all play functionally together. When that will happen is anyone's guess.
Chemistry is vital for a basketball team because the sport itself is a constant dance. Positioning, ball-movement, angles - all these spacial intangibles are just as vital to winning as the talent on the floor. The Clippers have as much talent as any team in the association, but so far there is very little proof that they can maintain a fluid, functional chemistry for a full four quarters.
Insert the Houston Rockets. If the Clippers are the quintessential example of a team that consistently disappoints even though it has overflowing talent, then the Rockets are the anti-Clippers. Entering this season, few analysts would have predicted an instant Houston surge. Ime Udoka, the maligned coach accused of having an unprofessional relationship in Boston and later fired as the Celtics' head-man, is on a mission to prove he's a top-tier coach. Udoka has the disposition of a military commander - tall, tough, stern, and his battalions are all about playing hard-nosed defense. It's a small sample size, sure, but through 3+ weeks of NBA basketball, the Rockets are #1 in opponent three-point percentage, fastbreak points, assists, and field goals made per game. They're top 5 in virtually every other defensive category.
And it didn't take long for Houston to play as a unified front. After opening with three straight losses, the Rockets have won six straight games. With a new cadre of talent, Udoka has created an egoless team with young exciting players and stabilizing veterans alike. Even better, Houston is coming off a full five days of rest heading into Friday's matchup.
Oddsmakers and sharp bettors are anticipating an all-out effort from the Clippers tonight, and the fact that this spread is moving up tells us they're embracing this spot for the home-team. We're not as confident. LAC looked better in a hard-fought game at Denver, nearly giving the champions their first home-loss, but in the end Jokic was too much to handle. This is probably the game they win, but a full 7½ points to a team that's struggling to band together? We can't support that.
Houston +7½ -107 (Risking 2.14 units - To Win: 2.00)