Rockets-Nuggets Betting Preview: Will Denver Cover Against Shorthanded Houston?

Rockets-Nuggets Betting Preview: Will Denver Cover Against Shorthanded Houston? article feature image
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Photo credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Harden

Betting odds: Houston Rockets at Denver Nuggets

  • Spread: Nuggets -4.5
  • Over/Under: 214
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET

>> All odds as of noon ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets


The 5-7 Houston Rockets will roll out a shortened rotation on the road against the 9-4 Denver Nuggets.

Can James Harden and Co. follow up a bounce-back win over the Pacers? Or will the Nuggets take advantage of Houston’s health issues and get the cover? Our analysts discuss.

Betting Trends to Know

Prior to the Houston’s win over Indiana — in which the Rockets scored 115 points on 20-of-47 (42.6%) shooting from downtown in a double-digit win — Houston had played four straight games in which it scored less than 100 points and shot worse than 33% from 3-point range.

Under Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets are only 20-25-1 (44.4%) against the spread in games after shooting at least 40% from 3-point range, losing bettors 6.2 units.

The Rockets are attempting to repeat their performance against the Pacers, but in Denver.

Since 2005, teams to shoot at least 40% from 3-point range in the previous game then play on the road in Denver are 65-91-6 ATS (41.7%), losing bettors 28.6 units — including 41-65-5 ATS (38.7%) in this spot after a straight-up win.

The Nuggets are the least-profitable opponent in the NBA in this spot, with the Blazers a distant second, losing bettors 19.4 units. Evan Abrams

Did you know? Houston was second in offensive efficiency (112.2 points per 100 possessions) and sixth in defensive efficiency (103.8) in 2017 when the team won a league-high 65 games.

The Rockets have fallen to 26th in offensive efficiency (102.5) and 19th in defensive efficiency (107.0) this season as they’ve started 5-7. John Ewing


Moore: The Game-Defining Matchup


This game will inherently come down to how Denver defends one mechanism:

That play is a nightmare to stop. If you leave Harden for a heartbeat, he’s going to either pull up for a 3-pointer, or accelerate to the rim and likely draw a foul when you contest. If you commit to Harden, he’s going to hit that lob pass.

Now, the Nuggets have done much better against this stuff this season. Nikola Jokic has been super active and has gotten better about reading when to commit to the big man rolling off of the guard and when to stay home.

Their help defense has been good at committing down and recovering. That’s what’s going to determine so much of this game.

P.J. Tucker’s illness is a huge deal. The other key mechanism in that set is that you have to punish the help man for coming off the corner. Without Tucker in the corner, the Nuggets might be able to dare other shooters in that spot. If Houston hits them, the Rockets will tear up Denver. If not, the Nuggets can control pace and flow (and frustrate Houston).

Harden averaged 30 points, eight rebounds and nine assists against the Nuggets last season — GOOD LORD — for a reason. They don’t have a counter for him. Their best hope might be trying to make him a scorer to contain the damage the others can do.Matt Moore


Locky: A Case for the Nuggets

I understand we all want to pile on the “Anti-Carmelo” bandwagon. It’s awfully full.

It’s also easy to look at Houston’s last game against Indiana and say: “Well now that he’s not out there being awful, look how productive the team was! Winning streak incoming!”

Yes, I’m sure it’s that simple.

But despite being so short-handed, look at what Houston got in that game from its best players: Their absolute best, most ideal performances in maximum minutes.

If Harden, Chris Paul or Clint Capela — who combined to score 84 points and shoot better than 50% from the field — aren’t giving you their A++ games each night, I’m not sure Houston’s success is sustainable with all the health concerns it has on top of being down Carmelo Anthony.

Houston’s rotation on Sunday was eight players. Of those eight, Tucker remains questionable for Tuesday’s game in Denver (he played 39 minutes against Indiana). Capela sustained a minor injury against the Pacers as well.

Capela isn’t listed on the injury report, but it’s something to be aware of as his minutes and usage will need to be high in this game going against Jokic. So that’s two starters who are less than 100% on an eight-man team, where the eighth man is Isaiah Hartenstein.

Gary Clark has been an absolute revelation and started over James Ennis, but I’d love to see this continue before considering it sustainable.

This is also a Houston team, with its limited numbers and tenuous starter health, facing a Denver team at what could be its low point. The Nuggets, after a hot start, have lost three in a row and are in the middle of a home stand, so rest and practice should be as good as they’re going to get.

Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Nikola Jokic

The odd thing about the three-game losing streak? There was no consistent weak spot. Against the Grizzlies, it was the offense. Against the Nets, it was turnovers. Against the Bucks, it was a complete abandonment of defense. Does that mean the Nuggets have a consistent issue that can hurt them long-term, or that these were just one-off struggles?

Will Barton’s injury is old news, and this Barton-less group has been playing together for weeks now, so there at least should be cohesion and a lack of confusion over role or system.

I think Denver might be sitting on a big performance given recent struggles and what state Houston comes into this game in. Maybe Houston’s blowout win over Indiana got you a tiny bit of line value here as well.

I’ll take Denver at -4.5. Ken Barkley

Mears: A Case for the Rockets

I’ll argue the other side now.

Based on our Week 1 NBA power rankings, this line would have been about Rockets -1 or perhaps a pick’em. But now that the Rockets are 5-7 and the Nuggets are 9-4, this line currently sits at Denver -4.5.

So the question is: Has what we’ve seen over the first month of the season really been worth four to six points of value?

I’m not sure that’s the case. Sure, the Nuggets have been much better this season, posting a nice +7.3 point differential (per Cleaning the Glass) compared to the Rockets’ -5.8 mark. But that doesn’t factor in injuries and unlucky play of guys like Harden and Paul, who will both suit up on Tuesday.

Tucker is questionable, and he’s certainly an important piece. The Rockets have been 3.2 points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor vs. off this season. But Carmelo is for sure out, and the Rockets have been 11.4 points/100 worse with him on vs. off.

Rockets – Tucker – Anthony = Still a positive because of Anthony

And the Rockets should see natural positive regression. They’ve led the league by a huge margin in open (defender 4-6 feet away) 3-pointers attempted, and they’re hitting a very below-average number of those. That will continue to regress.

Put simply: I think the betting public might be overrating Denver’s hot start and Houston’s sluggish one. The shortened rotation is a concern, but I’m not sure that makes betting Denver at such a high number worth it. — 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.

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