Raptors-Rockets Betting Guide: Will Kawhi Leonard Slow Down James Harden?

Raptors-Rockets Betting Guide: Will Kawhi Leonard Slow Down James Harden? article feature image

Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kawhi Leonard

Betting Odds: Toronto Raptors at Houston Rockets

  • Spread: Raptors -3
  • Over/Under: 229
  • Time: 8 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ESPN

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

Kawhi Leonard is back tonight, and he’ll be tasked with slowing down red-hot James Harden.

Will that happen? Will the Raps cover on the road? Our analysts discuss.

Betting Trends to Know

In 24 home games this season, the over is 16-8 (66.7%) for the Rockets, making them the second-most profitable home team to the over in the NBA this season.

At home against the Eastern Conference this year, the over is 7-1 in Rockets home games, going over the total by an astounding 24.7 points per game. Evan Abrams

Kawhi Leonard has missed four consecutive games to get some extra rest. He has now missed 14 games this season with the Raptors. They’ve gone 11-3 straight up and against the spread in those games.

In games that their superstar has played, the Raps are 25-11 SU and 12-23-1 ATS. Unfortunately for Raptors bettors, Kawhi is expected on the court on Friday. John Ewing

Moore: (Gulp) Bet Under on Harden’s Point Prop?

Leonard’s return does mean it’s probably time to take on that under for Harden points (currently 42.5 at Westgate!).

There isn’t a better primary defender on Harden over the past four years than Leonard. The best defender on Harden used to be Andre Iguodala, but Leonard takes Iguodala’s prototype of a long, agile defender with acute intelligence defensively and kicks it up a notch.

Leonard’s quick hands are able to disrupt the low, creeping dribble Harden uses to contain space. The Raptors will not allow a switch onto Harden by one of their bigs, instead going over on top with Leonard to keep him harassing Harden.

Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden (13) Toronto small forward Kawhi Leonard (behind).

If Harden tries to go for the pull-up, Leonard can block him from behind. The bigs will mostly drop; they won’t be worried about the roll man with Clint Capela’s continued absence.

Leonard went 2-2 ATS vs. Harden in 2016-17 — the last time these two really met. Leonard played just 16 minutes in a Rockets cover last season in the lone game Kawhi played vs. Houston.

There hasn’t been a consistent trend with Leonard ATS vs. Harden throughout the years, but with a compromised roster due to injury and Leonard playing, I lean towards Toronto. Matt Moore

Mears: Why Toronto Is a Brutal Matchup for Houston

It’s a small sample size, but this is a notable trend given how the Rockets offense operates: Houston is a respectable 22-24-1 ATS this season overall, but just 2-11-1 against the top-10 teams in 3-point rate allowed.

They haven’t played the Raptors yet this season, but they’re in that group, and they’re also fifth in 3-point field goal percentage allowed. They’re fourth in shots allowed at the rim, too.

This is an unstoppable force vs. unmovable object game: The Raptors defense with Leonard is so good at directing opponents into mid-rangers. But Harden and Co. are allergic to mid-rangers. They take them just 17.1% of the time, which is easily the lowest mark in the league.

The Raptors are top five in “open” 3-point field goals allowed and the percentage on those shots. The same is true with “wide open” shots — things certainly won’t come easy for the Rockets, who will again be without Chris Paul.

The Rockets are slow-paced on offense, operating almost solely in the halfcourt. They aren’t particularly great rebounding the ball, and they almost never push in transition off steals or live boards. This game will 100% come down to whether the Rockets can make contested 3s.

Harden can do that for sure, but I’ll rely on the trend I mentioned above. The Raptors are perhaps the most brutal matchup in the NBA for Houston, and while that Raptors -1.5 number is already gone, I’d still lean Toronto even at 2-3. 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.