Pelicans-Rockets Betting Preview: A Case for the Over/Under
USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jrue Holiday and Chris Paul
Betting odds: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets
- Spread: Rockets -8
- Over/Under: 232
- Time: 8 p.m. ET
- TV channel: ESPN
>> All odds as of noon ET. Download The Action Network App to get real-time NBA odds and track your bets
The marquee matchup of the NBA’s first big slate of the season features the reigning MVP, James Harden, against a hopeful one in Anthony Davis. Can the Pelicans cover at home with a new point guard? Will the new-look Rockets come out hot? Our experts weigh in.
The Pelicans Need to Modernize Their Offense
In the two final games between these squads last season (the ones without DeMarcus Cousins), the Rockets took 88 three-pointers. Yes, that number is correct. The Pelicans, meanwhile, took just 45.
That’s obviously a massive difference, and it existed even with the Pelicans playing a stretch 4 in Nikola Mirotic alongside the excellent-shooting Davis.
And that’s the scary part of taking the Pelicans against the spread, even if you think that these teams aren’t that far apart in talent.
The Pelicans have almost no room for error from an efficiency standpoint because of that shot discrepancy, and when the Rockets have an edge in the paint, too, the game just doesn’t set up well for New Orleans.
In the final game last season, the Pelicans went 14-of-27 (51.9%) at the rim; the Rockets went 22-of-26 (84.6%).
These two teams will play fast — New Orleans ranked first last season in pace and it has played just as quickly in the preseason — but pace doesn’t equal offensive efficiency.
That’s especially concerning this season with non-shooter Elfrid Payton starting at point guard and initiating the offense. I’m high on Davis and the Pelicans this season, but this will be an interesting test of how modern they can make their offense to keep up with the super-modern Rockets. — Bryan Mears
A Case for Betting the Over/Under
This is a really interesting opener in a lot of ways. The uncertainty with these two teams is everywhere. Can James Ennis essentially be Trevor Ariza? Can Houston have any kind of bench, and does Carmelo Anthony have to be productive for the answer to be “yes”? Does New Orleans have a point guard it can trust in Payton? Does it have a bench?
I thought it was interesting that in the two non-DeMarcus Cousins meetings between these teams last season — both late in the campaign, both with roster makeups pretty similar to what we’re seeing tonight — the games went WAY under. The second of those games would have gone under even more, but there was a 61-point garbage-time fourth quarter.
I think there is an understanding that you look at this game on paper and go “PACE! PACE! OVER!” but not only has that not materialized on the court in their games, but there are so many new pieces here.
The new pieces are offensively challenged/unproven, too. Is Ennis the same positive, productive player when playing 30 minutes, as opposed to 15? Can Payton run an up-tempo system effectively and push pace without turning it over and taking bad shots? Can these benches get good shots?
This total largely assumes it’s all figured out already. With so much uncertainty, I think only a small bet is warranted, but I will play against the assumptions of this game and take the under at 232. — Ken Barkley
James Harden Is the DFS Stud to Own Tonight
Today’s slate features a bunch of superstars to choose from, but Harden should be at the top of the list. The Rockets are implied for a slate high 118.25 points, and Harden averaged a FantasyLabs Plus/Minus of +4.49 with a comparable implied team total last season. The Pelicans are a great matchup for Harden — they played at the fastest pace in the league last season — and the reigning MVP eclipsed the 64-fantasy point barrier in two of four regular-season meetings. — Matt LaMarca
Betting Trends to Know
Alvin Gentry will look to get the Pelicans off to a hot start on the road, something he has not been able to do in the past. Since 1994, Gentry has coached 12 season-openers with five different franchises. Those teams went 1-11 SU and 0-12 ATS in those games.
With both the Pelicans and the Suns, Gentry’s teams also went 0-6-1 against the first-half spread in their openers.
Over the past two seasons under Mike D’Antoni, the Rockets have gone 64-18 straight up at home in the regular season, tied for the second-best win rate in the NBA, just one game behind that of the Warriors.
When it comes to the point spread, however, it’s a much different story: The Rockets have gone 35-46-1 ATS (43.2%) at home under D’Antoni, making him the third-least profitable coach at home in the NBA. — Evan Abrams
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.