The Pick: Warriors 105-101 — Rockets 106-103 if Chandler Parsons is deemed active
I couldn’t believe this line when I saw it this morning. What have the Rockets done this season to justify being a favorite, let alone a pretty considerable favorite, over a team in the Warriors that gave the San Antonio Spurs everything they could handle last postseason? I understand how good the Rockets can be, but does a team that is coming off of back-to-back losses to teams with a cumulative 14-25 record really deserve to be a heavy favorite?
The injury to Jeremy Lin might actually make the Rockets better equipped to face the Warriors as Patrick Beverly is a far superior defender. But defending this Warriors team is a five man effort, and I’m not buying Houston as a team that is willing to defend consistently for 48 minutes. There are some teams in the NBA that Houston can beat with the occasional great defensive sequence, but the Warriors proved Tuesday night (turned a 27-point deficit into a nine point victory against the Toronto Raptors) that if the opponent isn’t locked in for 48 minutes they stand very little chance. Any chance the Rockets have to cover this number may be tossed out the window if Parsons (who missed Wednesday’s game due to a lingering back injury) can’t give it a go. The underrated small forward is the team’s second leading scorer and is shooting a team-high 60-percent from the field.
With Dwight Howard manning the painted area, it isn’t surprising that the Rockets have given up the fourth most three point attempts this season. That isn’t a major problem against most teams, but the Warriors base their offense around getting Klay Thompson and Steph Curry good looks from distance (the duo averages 44 points on 47 percent shooting from downtown) and will happily “settle” for the 24 three-point attempts that opponents average against Houston (surprisingly enough, Houston allows more three point attempts per game than Golden State attempts). While you could easily point to the three point line as the area in which this game will be decided (the Rockets lead the league in 3PA, averaging four more attempts than the Warriors, but making the same number), my difference maker is David Lee. The 21-year old Terrance Jones figures to have a difficult time with the veteran which could result in foul trouble for Howard/Omer Asik. Even if he doesn’t get the paint protectors into foul trouble, he at least prevents Houston from inserting their big lineup, as neither Asik nor Howard can stick with Lee on the perimeter, thus negating the Rockets’ biggest edge.
You know what you’re going to get from the Warriors’ star players, but their reserves have been gaining confidence of late, something that I expect have a great impact tonight. Harrison Barnes appears to be comfortable in his starting role, averaging 19 points on 57.1 percent shooting from the field over the last three games, while Jermaine O’Neal has provided solid minutes of late (recorded a team-high +30 plus/minus ratio against the Raptors).
Fun Fact: Home-court disadvantage? James Harden is scoring eight fewer points with a shooting percentage that dips 12.2 points at home while Curry averages 3.8 more points and has a shooting percentage that increases 9.3 points on the road.
Looking to go to the game? Cheap Rockets tickets are still available so make sure to gram some now!