Rockets-Pelicans Betting Guide: A Case for the Over/Under

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Photo credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: James Harden

Betting odds: Houston Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans

  • Spread: Rockets -3
  • Over/Under: 227.5
  • Time: 7 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: NBA TV

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


The surging Houston Rockets will face the slipping 16-20 New Orleans Pelicans, who are playing on the second leg of a back-to-back. Are the Pels in play as a home dog? What about the over/under? Our analysts dive in.


Betting Trend to Know

The Pelicans are on a bad stretch currently, losing their last five games overall, including all four games on their road trip before finally coming through in overtime against the Mavericks last night.

After the Pelicans’ win to get off the schneid, they are now on a back-to-back at home facing the Rockets. Since Mike D’Antoni left the Suns for the Knicks back in 2008, opponents are 77-58 against the spread (57%) when facing D’Antoni on a back-to-back, profiting bettors 16.1 units. D’Antoni is the most profitable opposing coach when a team is on a back-to-back. — Evan Abrams


Locky: Why I Like the Over/Under

With Chris Paul and James Ennis sidelined, the Rockets just can’t get healthy all at the same time, but with those two out, the team has somehow played consistently good basketball for a week now.

Wins over the Thunder on Christmas and Boston two days after were excellent. In a Western Conference that has made no sense all season, Houston finds itself just 3.5 games back of the No. 1 seed despite all the injury issues.

Although the Pelicans won last night, this is a team the Rockets should thrive against in a spot that should create a lot of points. New Orleans’ calling card all season, whether the offense is clicking or not, is that in the second game of back-to-backs, or really in any fatigue-based situation, the defense COMPLETELY collapses. Let’s revisit some examples:

  • December 10: Against a depleted Celtics team essentially starting a second unit, New Orleans put up a 116.5 Defensive Rating (per Cleaning the Glass) and got blown out by Boston, 113-100.
  • December 3: One of the worst defensive performances of the season in a narrow loss to the Clippers, 129-126. A Defensive Rating of 129.0.
  • November 24: Playing their third game in four nights on the road, the Pelicans lost by 10 to the lowly Wizards, allowing an eFG% of 62.2% and a Defensive Rating of 112.7.

There are more examples, but you get the idea. And there are also examples of the Pelicans winning in such spots, but the wins always feature particularly poor defensive efforts. It’s just that in the wins, they manage to use extremely efficient offense to overcome their defensive shortcomings. But the poor defense is still there.

It is unrealistic to rely on the Pelicans, who will most likely still be without Nikola Mirotic and Elfrid Payton, to show up big defensively in this spot after showing time and again an inability to do so.

Considering a no-fatigue situation for both teams, I’d have this at Rockets -2 in my handicapping, so I think -3 is a decent bet considering what we’ve seen from New Orleans in the past.

The total between these teams is never going to be offered at a discount, but my favorite bet in the game is the over at 227.5. — Ken Barkley


Mears: Keep Buying the Rockets

The Rockets defense has really sucked this year, ranking 24th in points allowed per 100 possessions. They’re also 22nd in effective field goal percentage allowed, 29th in defensive rebounding and 28th in field goal percentage allowed at the rim. It’s been bad all around.

But a couple weeks ago head coach Mike D’Antoni talked about changing up the defensive scheme from switching everything to playing a more conventional pick-and-roll defense with center Clint Capela.

While most coaches talking about in-season scheme changes is probably overrated, I think this one is particularly important. Look at all of their poor defensive ranks: You can argue that all of them are due to switching on defense instead of dropping the center back into the paint.

It’s a small sample, but over the past two weeks the Rockets have been much better defensively, sitting 10th in points/100 allowed. They’re 11th in effective field goal percentage allowed and 19th in defensive rebound rate (despite facing great rebounding teams like the Thunder on Christmas).

Also importantly, they’re just 13th in field goal frequency allowed at the rim. While there are still some individual question marks on the defense, at least the scheme is no longer killing them. Opponents aren’t getting as many great shots and valuable offensive boards.

As a result, the Rockets during that time frame sit seventh with a +7.4 point differential — way up from their +0.8 season-long mark. The Pelicans during that span? They’re 21st with a -4.1 point differential.

If you looked at these teams’ season-long metrics, this should probably be about an even game on a neutral court. Factor in the back-to-back for New Orleans, and perhaps it’s about a pick’em? So that’s the question: Are the Rockets’ recent improvements worth them being about 2-3 points higher in value against-the-spread?

It seems the public thinks so: The Rockets are currently getting 63% of the bets and a ridiculous 94% of the money. — 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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