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SAN ANTONIO SPURS (53-26) at HOUSTON ROCKETS (53-25)
The Spurs and Rockets meet in Houston Friday and these teams will be battling one another for their postseason positioning in this one.
These two teams met on Wednesday and San Antonio came away with a 110-98 home victory as a 6.5-point favorite. The Spurs picked up their ninth straight win-and-cover in that game and the Rockets loss snapped a three-game SU winning streak. In three meetings between these teams this season, the Spurs are 2-1 both SU and ATS but it has been the home team that has won-and-covered in every game. Over the past three seasons, the Rockets are 6-5 SU and 7-4 ATS versus the Spurs. Houston is also 4-1 both SU and ATS when hosting San Antonio over the past three seasons. San Antonio is 13-3 ATS after covering in eight or more of its past 10 games over the past two seasons. The team is also 14-4 ATS after eight or more consecutive wins over the past two seasons. Houston, however, is 11-2 ATS after a loss by 10 points or more this season and 32-16 ATS when revenging a loss where an opponent scored 110 points or more over the past three seasons. SG Marco Belinelli (Groin) and C Tiago Splitter (Calf) are questionable for the Spurs and the Rockets are without PF Donatas Motiejunas (Back) and PG Patrick Beverley (Wrist) for the season.
The Spurs are the hottest team in the league and PG Tony Parker (14.5 PPG, 4.9 APG) had one of his best games of the season against the Rockets on Wednesday. Parker had been the lone player on this team that wasnt playing up to his potential and he poured in 27 points in 26 minutes against Houston in that game. With Patrick Beverley out for the Rockets, Parker should be able to dominate whoever is guarding him on Friday. SF Kawhi Leonard (16.5 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.3 SPG) continues to play at a high level offensively and is now averaging 23.0 PPG over his past four contests. He has also come away with 14 steals over the past three games and should see some time guarding James Harden in this one. PF Tim Duncan (13.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.9 APG, 2.0 BPG) has been a monster defensively over the past two games, averaging 9.5 RPG and 4.0 BPG in just 25.5 MPG in those contests. Duncan is, however, averaging just 9.0 PPG in those contests and has taken just 5.4 shots per game over the past five contests. The Spurs are going to need to start getting Duncan some touches towards the end of the season, as they do not want him to be rusty when the postseason comes around. Hell need to be really active defensively on Friday if he spends some time guarding Dwight Howard.
The Rockets were unable to beat this same Spurs team on Wednesday and SG James Harden (27.6 PPG, 6.9 APG, 5.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG) had an inefficient shooting game, finishing with 22 points (6-for-15 FG) in 35 minutes. Harden will need to be better in this game or his team will not have much of a chance of beating San Antonio. C Dwight Howard (15.8 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG) is starting to look like himself recently, averaging 19.0 PPG and 9.5 RPG in 22.5 MPG over the past two games. His minutes should start to increase moving forward and hell need to protect the rim against the Spurs on Friday. SF Trevor Ariza (12.9 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.9 SPG) had 19 points against the Spurs on Wednedsay and shot the ball extremely well, going 5-for-6 from the outside. Ariza will need to knock down some outside shots in this one as well. SF Josh Smith (12.2 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.4 BPG, 1.1 SPG) will need to be on his game on Friday as well. Smith is a huge player off the bench for this team and can help on both ends of the floor. He had 13 points, five assists and three rebounds in 27 minutes of action on Wednesday and will need to make things difficult on whomever he is guarding in this rematch.
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NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (3-11) at HOUSTON ROCKETS (7-7)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -10, Total: 184
Houston has a golden opportunity to stretch its SU winning streak to five (and ATS win streak to eight) when it hosts New Orleans Thursday night.
Not only are the rebuilding Hornets traveling for a back-to-back after hosting Memphis on Wednesday, but they’re going to be without their best player, SG Eric Gordon (knee), for a ninth straight game. The Rockets are well-rested and have pounded teams at home this year, winning four of their six home games by 11 points or more. They’re 5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS at the Toyota Center. HOUSTON is the pick to win and cover the big spread.
The Rockets enter this game not only looking for their fifth SU win in a row, but also for their eight straight ATS win. They hammered Detroit at home on Tuesday, 97-80, despite having played in a game at Washington the night before.
Their inside-outside combo of PG Kyle Lowry (17.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 8.7 APG) and PF Luis Scola (15.7 PPG, 5.9 RPG) is already one of the most productive, yet underrated, duos in the NBA. And now Houston is starting to get big production from newly signed C Samuel Dalembert (8.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG), who is averaging 15.3 PPG on 69.2% shooting from the field, 11.8 RPG and 2.0 BPG over the past four contests. And while SG Kevin Martin (17.4 PPG) has been slumping on the road (15.5 PPG, 18.4% shooting from three), he’s averaging 20.0 PPG and hitting 40.0% of his threes at home.
Things seem to keep getting worse for New Orleans. Gordon was the closest thing they had to a franchise player after the Chris Paul trade, but he’s played in just two games this season.
They have played relatively well on the road, going 2-4 SU but 4-2 ATS. And the return of SF Trevor Ariza (11.2 PPG) for Wednesday night’s loss to Memphis at least provided a boost to their anemic offense (86.7 PPG, 3rd-worst in NBA). New Orleans has yet to hit the 100-point mark in a game this season, reaching 90 just five times in 14 games. After missing eight games with a groin injury, Ariza had 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, five rebounds and seven assists against Memphis. But aside from he and PG Jarrett Jack (16.4 PPG, 7.4 APG), the Hornets are struggling to score as C Chris Kaman (10.1 PPG, 7.1 RPG) struggles to adjust to his new team, and PF Carl Landry (11.6 PPG) has been in and out of head coach Monty Williams’ doghouse.