Rockets at Warriors NBA Pick for January 3rd

by Taylor Smith
on January 3, 2019

Last year, the Houston Rockets came to within one game of making it to the NBA Finals, where most would have expected them to do away with the Cleveland Cavaliers and win the franchise’s first championship since the mid-1990s.

Unfortunately for Houston, Chris Paul injured his hamstring late in Game 6, and he was forced to miss the decisive Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Had Paul been able to play, the Rockets would have had a real shot at dethroning the champs.

The Rockets still had a great chance at winning Game 7 even without Paul, but it wasn’t to be. Unbelievably, Houston missed 27 consecutive 3-pointers at one point in the game, and the Warriors were able to prevail and would go on to win their third title in the last 4 seasons.

Many had the Rockets tabbed as Golden State’s biggest challenger for a third straight title this season, but early on Houston didn’t look right. The Rockets staggered their way to a shocking 4-7 start, which had many wondering whether this team was all it was cracked up to be.

Just a few weeks later, though, they look right back on track. The Rockets have rallied to win 10 of their last 11 overall, and they will enter tonight’s tilt in Oakland riding a 5-game winning streak.

The Warriors haven’t looked nearly as dominant this year as in years past, but they are still 25-13 on the season and very much within striking range of the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Golden State will be looking to run their own winning streak to 3 games after taking down the Trail Blazers and Suns leading into Thursday’s Western Conference Finals rematch.

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The following odds are courtesy of live odds feed:

Betting Data Rockets Warriors
2018 Straight-Up 21-15 25-13
2018 Home 13-5 15-5
2018 Away 8-10 10-8
2018 ATS 18-17-1 16-22-0
2018 ATS Home 8-12-0 11-6-1
2018 ATS Away 7-11-0 8-10-0
2018 O/U 18-16-2 19-19-0
2018 O/U Home 11-6-1 8-12-0
2018 O/U Away 7-10-1 11-7-0

Can Golden State Three-peat?

The Warriors are still heavy betting favorites to win their third straight championship, even if they haven’t quite looked the part for the entire season thus far. You still can’t get positive odds on Golden State winning it all this year, but their championship doesn’t look nearly as assured as it did about a year ago at this time.

Still, the fact that they’re 25-13 without having fully hit their stride thus far just goes to show how talented they are. Steph Curry continues to do Steph Curry things, as well.

The 2-time league MVP is averaging 28.7 points per game this season, which is the second-highest scoring average of his career thus far. Curry has connected on better than 45 percent of his looks from long range, and he’s quietly having what may be his finest individual campaign to date.

Kevin Durant has been his usual stellar self, but Klay Thompson and Draymond Green have struggled offensively. It’s gotten to the point with Green where opposing defenses are not even paying attention to him. Despite the fact that most of his looks are wide open threes with no defender within several feet of him, Green is shooting under 25 percent from long range on the season.

Considering how much of Golden State’s offense is predicated on the 3-pointer, the fact that such a vital cog is struggling so much is one of the reasons some are skeptical about the Warriors’ chances at winning a third straight title.

Thompson is also shooting just 34.4 percent from 3-point range, which is way down from his career average north of 41 percent. One would imagine Klay will find his stroke at some point, but if he doesn’t there is plenty of reason to believe Golden State could be in trouble come playoff time.

Harden’s One-Man Show

Chris Paul and Eric Gordon will be sidelined once again for the Rockets tonight. James Harden is obviously the focal point of the Rockets’ offense regardless, but with Paul and Gordon out there is an even brighter spotlight on the Beard.

If you take Paul and Gordon off the floor this season, Harden has an absurd usage rate of 50.2 percent, which is a whopping 8.6 percent higher than his season average.

The reigning league MVP has been on an incredible run as the Rockets have surged up the standings.

In December, Harden averaged an insane 36.4 points, 79 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting better than 41 percent on 12.6 3-point attempts per game. He has been absolutely dominant offensively, and he has established himself as the best offensive player in the game, in one writer’s opinion.

While Harden does a little bit of everything for Houston offensively, he can’t go it alone. Guys like Austin Rivers, Danuel House, Gerald Green and P.J. Tucker are having to shoulder a bit of a larger offensive load with Houston so short-handed in the backcourt and on the wing.

Rivers, who just showed up about a week ago, is suddenly being leaned on to play 40ish minutes per game for his new team over the last couple of games.

Clint Capela doesn’t get a ton of recognition for being one of the game’s brightest young centers, but he should. The 24-year-old Switzerland native is quietly averaging 17 points and 12.5 rebounds with just under 2 blocks per game. He’s shooting nearly 64 percent from the floor (mostly dunks, of course) while serving as Harden’s dynamic pick-and-roll partner.

The Warriors have struggled to contain opposing big men all year long without DeMarcus Cousins healthy, so Capela will have that matchup to his advantage in this one.

The Pick

The Rockets struggled early in the season, but they have clearly found their footing over the last month or so. Despite the fact that they’ll be without a couple of key guards tonight, I like their chances of staying competitive against the heavily-favored Warriors.

It’s not like Houston has taken advantage of a bunch of cupcakes during their recent stretch of success, either. The Rockets have taken care of the Celtics, Pelicans, Thunder, Spurs, Jazz, Grizzlies (twice), Lakers and Trail Blazers within the last 10 games. All of those teams will be in the playoff mix come season’s end.

There won’t be many instances in which you’ll be able to get such great profit potential betting on the Rockets. There is obviously risk here considering Oracle Arena is one of the NBA’s most difficult environments for visitors, but the Rockets are no strangers to it.

I’m not absolutely convinced this is a bet that will pay off, but I’m having a hard time ignoring the Rockets at +295 on the moneyline here.

I definitely wouldn’t go all-in here, but I would absolutely be getting a piece of that price while it’s still available. I also like the Rockets to cover the 8-point spread. The Warriors haven’t been convincing enough this season for me to think Houston isn’t capable of winning outright or keeping the game close.

Give me the Rockets to win at +295.
Pick: Rockets

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Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, but he’s willing to take one for the team on that front every now and then.

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