NBA: Houston Rockets at Miami Heat Preview

dwight howardWith their stock rapidly rising and their championship odds increasing, the (44-21) Houston Rockets will travel to American Airlines Arena to take on the defending champion (44-19) Miami Heat for a Sunday matinee (3:30pm ET).

The last and first time these two teams met this year, the Rockets emerged victorious with a 106-103 win at home at the Toyota Center. Since 2008, the Rockets and Heat have met 10 times, splitting the series five games apiece. The average margin of victory in nine of the ten games is just over six and is at nine for the entire series (the Heat won one game by 33 points).

The Rockets’ Rising Stars

When the 2013-14 season began, the Rockets were one of those teams to watch. They had already developed a strong team with young sensation Jeremy Lin and the Oklahoma City Thunder castoff-turned-star James Harden, but the biggest find came with the free agent signing of Dwight Howard (pictured).

Howard’s impact made the Rockets one of the top Western conference teams and contributed to their meteoric rise with the 2014 NBA Championship Title oddsmakers as well. The Rockets (14/1 Bovada & BetOnline) are now sixth on the list behind the Heat, who are the bookies’ favorites at around 9/4 with both those same sportsbooks.

Houston is one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now having won eight of their last 10 including each of the last five. They have moved closer to catching the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference and sit just 2.5 games out of that first place spot.

Howard has been a cog for the Rockets with his 18.6 PPG and 12.3 RPG but he has not been alone. In fact, the entire Rockets’ starting five average in double digit points. In total, seven players record at least eight points a game, which is a Western Conference high.

Leading the way offensively is the aforementioned Harden. Since leaving the role of the third best player on the Thunder, Harden has absolutely owned his chance at the spotlight. Before Howard, the Rockets were his team and he led with scoring acumen. Now, Harden does defer to Howard in terms of star power but in terms of productivity, he still is number one.

Harden averages 24.6 PPG which is the fifth best in the league. Of the top five, Harden is the only guard. Of the top five in scoring he is also second in minutes and second in APG (5.7).

Can the Heat be beaten at Home?

For the past few years, the Heat have thoroughly enjoyed home field advantage. In both the regular season and playoffs, Miami has looked to the confines of American Airlines to provide that added edge and it has. The fan support has been impressive but more than that, Miami just never seemed to lose at home.

Last week saw the Heat lose consecutive games at home for the first time since March of 2011. In that span of three years, Miami has lost a total of 15 home games including each of the last two. In the playoffs, they have lost five home games en route to back-to-back championships.

Moral of the story, the Heat may be great at home but they are not unbeatable, especially this year. Unfortunately for the Rockets though, the Heat haven’t lost three straight at home in over five seasons. It is worth noting as well that even though the last 10 encounters these teams have played have been split, the home team has won each time.

Houston Rockets at Miami Heat Betting Pick

In the course of their history, the Heat and Rockets have met 53 times. Miami has won 27 and Houston 26. Overall, these teams have been evenly matched at times and it has made for a great East vs West rivalry. As it stands though, the two teams, the Heat in the league since 1988-89 and the Rockets since 1967-68, have never met in the postseason. The way things look though, an NBA Championship meeting between them is probable.

The Rockets have been the better and hotter team as of late but the Heat do have the noted advantage of playing at home. Miami did lose each of their last two at home and has lost five of their last eight but this team always turns it around in time for the playoffs. There is no reason to expect this year will be any different.

Houston has been great and it is likely they will battle with San Antonio for the West’s top seed for the rest of the season. They have a strong team and have been very successful this year both at home on the road. That being said, take the Heat to win this one.

  • Bet on Miami Heat -5pts on the spread at odds of -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook. There is no way Miami loses three consecutive games at home and that you can take to the bank.