HOUSTON ROCKETS (37-17)
at GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (32-22)
Tip-off: Thursday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Golden State -1, Total: 212.5
The sizzling-hot Rockets try to start off their road trip with back-to-back wins when they visit the up-and-down Warriors on Thursday night.
Since an 18-point blowout loss to Memphis on Jan. 25, Houston has reeled off eight straight victories (6-2 ATS), thanks to an offense scoring a whopping 112.1 PPG on 50.5% FG (41.6% threes) during this win streak. After Wednesday's 134-108 romp of the Lakers, the Rockets are now 15-10 SU (13-12 ATS) on the road this season. Golden State hasn't won two straight games all month, alternating losses and wins in all six February games (3-2-1 ATS). Despite their quality 16-10 SU mark at home, the Warriors are just 10-14-2 ATS in Oakland. Houston has won both meetings in the season series so far, destroying its opponent 105-83 at home on Dec. 6 and then prevailing 116-112 at Golden State just one week later. That gives the Rockets a dominant 17-3 SU advantage (14-6 ATS) in the past 20 meetings of this series, including an 8-2 SU mark (6-4 ATS) in Oakland. Houston is also 9-4 (SU and ATS) on the second half of a back-to-back this season, pumping in 106.2 PPG in this scenario, and is 19-6 ATS (76%) versus good three-point shooting teams (36%+ threes) in the second half of the past two seasons. Although the Warriors are just 3-6 ATS with zero rest this season, all extremely well-rested teams (3 or fewer games in 10 days) revenging an SU loss versus an opponent as a home favorite are 40-15 ATS (73%) since 1996 where the line is +3 to -3. The Rockets will still be missing PF Greg Smith (knee), and SG Ronnie Brewer (ankle) is questionable for this game. Golden State could be without two centers for this contest with C Festus Ezeli (knee) out indefinitely and C Andrew Bogut (shoulder) doubtful to return after a five-game absence. Newly-acquired PG Steve Blake is considered questionable to be in uniform on Thursday, but C Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) does expect to play.
Can the Warriors put an end to the Rockets' long winning streak? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The five StatFox experts have been sizzling with a 61% ATS record (20-13-1) since Feb. 10, making them 53% ATS (145-130-7) since Dec. 1. StatFox Dave has a stellar 60% ATS (34-23-1) Best Bets record since Dec. 1 and is 54% ATS (44-37-1) on Best Bets for the season. StatFox Zach has a strong 57% ATS mark (31-23-3) on Best Bets since Dec. 1 and is 53% ATS (42-37-3) on Best Bets for the season, while StatFox Brian is catching fire, going 74% ATS (14-5-1) since Jan. 25 and 60% ATS (29-19-1) in Best Bets since Dec. 12.
Houston's offense has been terrific all season, scoring 106.0 PPG (3rd in NBA) on 47.5% FG (4th in league) and 9.2 made three-pointers per game (6th in NBA) despite a subpar 35.4% clip from behind the arc (19th in league). However, the team has had its problems with ball-handling, dishing out just 20.5 APG (9th-worst in league) and 15.4 turnovers per game (3rd-worst in NBA). This club rebounds pretty well with 45.1 RPG (7th in league) and a +3.3 RPG margin (5th in NBA), and although it allows a mediocre 101.5 PPG (12th-worst in league), the Rockets hold opponents to 43.8% FG (5th in NBA) and 34.9% threes (8th in league) thanks in large part to their 5.8 BPG (3rd in NBA). C Dwight Howard (18.9 PPG, 12.5 RPG, 1.8 BPG) has a chance for a huge night without Andrew Bogut guarding him. Howard has 20.0 PPG (71% FG) and 14.5 RPG in his team's two wins over Golden State this season, giving him 18.1 PPG (57% FG) and 13.3 RPG in 20 career games in this series. Howard also enters this game on quite a roll with five straight double-doubles (24.6 PPG, 14.2 RPG). SG James Harden (24.0 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.7 RPG) has also been unstoppable in his two meetings with the Warriors this season, averaging 30.0 PPG (50% FG), 6.5 APG and 4.5 RPG. Harden has played very well in all facets during his team's win streak with 26.0 PPG (48% FG, 44% threes, 92% FT), 5.0 APG, 4.0 RPG and 2.0 SPG in six contests. SF Chandler Parsons (17.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.1 SPG) has now put together three big games in a row, averaging 18.7 PPG (56% FG, 4-of-9 threes), 6.7 RPG, 4.7 APG and 1.3 SPG. He also has a solid 15.5 PPG, 4.0 APG and 3.0 SPG in the two wins versus Golden State this season. PG Jeremy Lin (13.2 PPG, 4.5 APG) is a big reason his team keeps winning, averaging 13.4 PPG (46% FG, 38% threes), 5.6 APG and 3.9 RPG in the past eight games, while fellow PG Patrick Beverley (9.6 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.8 APG) has contributed nicely with 9.9 PPG, 4.3 APG, 4.3 RPG and 2.3 SPG during the eight-game surge.
Golden State doesn't have a glaring weakness, ranking 10th in the NBA in scoring (103.5 PPG) thanks to a 45.9% FG clip (8th in league), including 38.1% threes (4th in NBA). Defensively, the club allows 98.8 PPG (9th in league) on 43.6% FG (4th in NBA) and 35.3% threes (12th in league). The club loves to work the glass with 45.8 RPG (2nd in NBA) and is also unselfish with 22.8 APG (10th in league). Although the Warriors turn the ball over 15.6 times per game (2nd-most in NBA), their 7.9 SPG has helped them post a strong +0.7 turnover differential, good for 9th in the league. The offense is propelled by PG Stephen Curry (24.4 PPG, 9.0 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG), who has scored at least 13 points in all 21 games in the 2014 calendar year, averaging 26.5 PPG on 49% FG (42% threes) during this surge. Although he has 21.0 PPG and 7.0 APG in the two meetings with Houston this season, Curry has made just 39% FG (2-of-10 threes) with 14 turnovers in the two losses. Curry and SG Klay Thompson (18.3 PPG, 3.0 RPG) rank first and second in the NBA in made three-pointers, as they both drain 41% of their long-range attempts. Thompson has not been able to find his shot in the two losses to the Rockets, scoring just 10.0 PPG and making only 8-of-27 attempts (30%) and 1-of-11 threes. With C Andrew Bogut (8.2 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 1.9 BPG) expected to miss his sixth straight game on Thursday because of his bad shoulder, C Jermaine O'Neal (6.3 PPG, 4.7 RPG) will continue to start in his place. O'Neal has just 9.0 PPG and 5.3 RPG in his four starts this season, contributing only three points and four boards in 16 minutes in Wednesday's 101-92 win over the Kings. The most productive Warriors player down low continues to be PF David Lee (18.9 PPG, 9.8 RPG) who has a double-double in all three games since returning from a shoulder injury. Despite the presence of Dwight Howard in the paint, Lee has still averaged 17.0 PPG (60% FG) and 6.5 RPG in the two meetings this season. For his career, Lee has 15.1 PPG and 9.1 RPG in 20 meetings with the Rockets.