Tuesday NBA Betting Odds, Picks and Predictions: Rockets vs. Trail Blazers Preview (August 4)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images. Pictured: James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets
- The Rockets are a 5-point favorite over the Blazers in NBA bubble action, with the total at a lofty 244.
- Matt LaMarca is bucking conventional wisdom and playing the under, counting on Portland to slow the pace and not give into what the Rockets want to do.
- Get his full preview and breakdown for Rockets vs. Blazers below.
Rockets vs. Trail Blazers Betting Odds
|Rockets odds||-5 [BET NOW]|
|Trail Blazers odds||+5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-200/+170 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||244 [BET NOW]|
|Time||9 p.m. ET|
The NBA keeps rolling right along in the bubble, and Tuesday features a really exciting matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets.
Both teams have played well since the restart, and the Rockets are currently favored by five points while the total sits at 244.0 points.
This game could also have big playoff implications. The Blazers currently sit 10th in the Western Conference, but they’re just 2.0 games behind the Grizzlies for the No. 8 spot. The Grizzlies haven’t won yet in Orlando, so the race for the 8-seed is wide open.
Let’s break down how to approach this game from a betting perspective.
The Rockets have won their first two games, both against excellent competition. They took on the Dallas Mavericks in their first outing, who have statistically been one of the best offensive teams in the history of the NBA. The Mavericks are only No. 7 in the Western Conference at the moment, but they’ve posted sixth-best Net Rating in basketball. Overall, they’ve been one of the unluckiest teams in the league this season in terms of expected record vs. actual record.
The Rockets then followed that up with a huge win against the Milwaukee Bucks, the best team in the league during the regular season on pace for one of the best records in the history of the NBA prior to the shutdown.
What makes these wins even more impressive is how poorly the Rockets match up with these teams on paper. Both teams feature a “unicorn” — i.e. a super skilled big man who is capable of doing damage in a bunch of different ways. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kristaps Porzingis are both legit 7-footers, and the Rockets managed to beat their teams without starting anyone over 6-foot-7.
The formula they used was simple: Score more points than the other guys. That’s a Mike D’Antoni staple, and the Rockets have embraced the pace-and space philosophy since trading away Clint Capela to the Atlanta Hawks. Overall, they’ve played at the third-fastest pace this season, and they’ve averaged 115.5 points per 100 possessions in their past 19 games. That would be the top mark in the league if sustained overall a full year.
They acquired Robert Covington in the Capela trade, who has been a perfect fit in D’Antoni’s new system. The Rockets have increased their Net Rating by +6.8 points per 100 possessions with Covington on the court over 535 minutes. Capela owned a Net Rating differential of -4.4 points per 100 possessions, so it appears that trade was a considerable win for the Rockets.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have gone just 1-1 in the bubble, but they have been “blessed” with one of the hardest schedules in Orlando. Still, this is clearly not the same team that we saw during the early part of the season.
The big difference for the Blazers in Orlando is the addition of Jusuf Nurkic into the rotation. He missed the entire first part of the season recovering from leg surgery, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from watching him play. The Blazers have thrown him right into the fire, and he’s responded with an average of 24 points, nine rebounds, five assists, 3.5 blocks, and two steals over 32.5 minutes. No team has added a more impactful player to their rotation prior to the bubble, and it’s not even close.
Nurkic’s impact on the Blazers can’t be overstated. If Damian Lillard is the engine the drives them, Nurkic is the transmission. He posted a Net Rating differential of +12.0 points per 100 possessions in 2019, which put him in the 96th percentile.
Overall, the two-man combination of Lillard and Nurkic outscored opponents by +10.8 points per 100 possessions when on the court last year. If the Blazers had Nurkic all season, it’s very possible they wouldn’t even be in this situation.
It ultimately may be too little, too late for the Blazers in 2020, but expect them to go down swinging.
Betting Analysis & Pick
It’s easy to look at these two teams and see a ton of offensive potential, but I think this total is a bit too high. For starters, taking unders on totals between 240 and 248 has historically been a profitable endeavor, posting a record of 21-13-1 against the spread (61.8%).
While the Blazers have been great offensively, they also haven’t played at a blistering pace. They’ve averaged just 99.6 possessions per game through their first two contests, and they have historically played slower with Nurkic on the court. The Rockets will obviously want to push the tempo in this contest, but don’t expect Portland to try to turn it into a track meet.
THE PICK: Under 244 (wouldn’t play below 244)