Nuggets-Rockets Betting Guide: Will Harden and Co. Continue Denver Dominance?

Nuggets-Rockets Betting Guide: Will Harden and Co. Continue Denver Dominance? article feature image

Photo credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Harden

Betting Odds: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets

  • Spread: Rockets -1.5
  • Over/Under: 215.5
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET

>> All odds as of 2:30 p.m. ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets

The Nuggets and Rockets are red-hot lately, going 8-2 straight up (SU) over their last 10 games. James Harden is back in the MVP race. What does all that mean for tonight’s game? Our analysts discuss.

Betting Trends to Know

Since the beginning of the 2016-17 regular season, James Harden has faced the Nuggets eight times. The Rockets are 8-0 SU and 6-2 against the spread (ATS) against Denver in that span, covering the spread by 8.6 PPG.

Since 2016, the Nuggets are the Rockets’ most profitable opponent ATS, netting bettors 3.8 units. In those eight games, Harden is averaging 30.3 PPG, 9.8 APG and 7.4 RPG. He’s scoring 9.7 PPG in the fourth quarter against the Nuggets on 51.5% shooting (46.2% from downtown). — Evan Abrams

Moore: What I’m Watching For Tonight

The worst-kept secret in Denver is that no one cares about any team except the Broncos. The second worst is that Denver can’t beat Houston.

The Rockets are 4-0 in Houston vs. the Nuggets in the Mike D’Antoni era. Overall, Houston has won the last eight matchups.

Denver just can’t handle Harden; they don’t have a perimeter defender who can contain him without fouling. And that’s in a normal situation — not now, when he’s in the midst of what he has described himself as the best of his career.

The three-point arsenal is just too much for Denver. If there’s one team the Nuggets know they want to avoid in a playoff series, it’s Houston.

Interestingly, I’ve heard a similar sentiment from Houston, which wants no part of the freewheeling Nuggets offense and size in a series. However, they’re likely to meet given how good both teams are this year.

Watch out for Harden, who is likely to continue burning entire worlds to cinders vs. Denver, and stay away from the total. The over is 5-6 when Malone’s Nuggets face Houston. Don’t be surprised if Will Barton returns for this game in an effort to give the Nuggets an emotional boost. — Matt Moore

Mears: Why I’d Lean Toward the Under

These are two squads playing very well right now. Both are 8-2 SU over the last 10, and the Rockets are notably 7-2-1 ATS during that stretch, which includes a bunch of time without Chris Paul and Eric Gordon.

The line is interesting: Rockets -1.5 suggests that the Nuggets are a point or two better right now on a neutral court. That would have been obvious a while ago with CP3 and Gordon out, but it seems off to the public given the Rockets’ hot play.

So far this afternoon, the public is pounding the Rockets, who are getting 78% of the bets and 89% of the money.

The over is also a popular bet, getting 77% of the wagers and 69% of the money. It makes sense: Harden is a walking flame right now, and the over is 12-6 in Rockets home games this season.

But as I’ve discussed a lot lately, most of those over games occurred before the Rockets’ defensive scheme change. They’re playing more traditional pick-and-roll defense of late instead of the switch-everything strategy they successfully employed a year ago.

They’re missing a talented defender in CP3, but the scheme change has already proven valuable. Over the last 10 games, the Rockets are 10th in effective field goal percentage allowed, which has helped propel them to a +5.4 point differential.

They’re forcing opponents into short mid-range shots at the third-highest rate during that span, and they’re second in three-point defense as well.

That said, it’s not just about switching. They’re also forcing opponents into half-court sets at the second-highest rate in the league during that 10-game stretch, and opponents have pushed off live rebounds at the third-lowest rate. Playing a more conservative defense has definitely helped.

And Denver will play into that tonight. The Nuggets are 22nd in transition frequency, and they push off live rebounds at the fourth-lowest rate. They do dominate on the offensive glass, and the Rockets are vulnerable there, but overall I’m expecting this to be a half-court game.

Thus, my lean is to fade the public here, which is on the over. — Bryan Mears

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.