The 5-3 Houston Rockets are in a slump, losing their last two contests by eight points or more. The 3-3 New York Knicks are not, however, with three straight wins under the belt. The two teams will face each other tonight at Madison Square Garden (8pm ET Wednesday on ESPN).
Kristaps Porzingis has been a stud for the Knicks so far, scoring at least 30 points in five of the team’s six games. Very good play from the team’s centers (mostly Enes Kanter and Kyle O’Quinn) has also contributed to the team’s hot play.
Houston has been ice-cold shooting the ball thus far, which is a big issue because of how many three-pointers the team attempts. The Rockets do miss point guard Chris Paul, who remains out with a knee injury.
Will the Knicks continue their stellar play against a quality, albeit struggling, Rockets team? This NBA preview will break down some influential factors in tonight’s contest before sorting out our predictions. We will conclude with our picks in a bid to get one over on the USA sports betting sites.
Who Wins the Starting Center Matchup?
The Knicks and Rockets both possess starting centers who stuff the stat sheet. Per 36 minutes, the Knicks’ Enes Kanter averages 20.5 points and 15.2 rebounds. In that same time frame, the Rockets’ Clint Capela is putting up 20.1 points and 16.8 rebounds.
The problem is, both players have issues reaching 36 minutes in a game. Capela’s conditioning could use some work and he is often in foul trouble. Kanter has a similar conditioning problem, and he can be a defensive liability because of his poor lateral quickness and awareness.
Both Capela and Kanter should put up big numbers in today’s game. But who will produce more? Also, who will prove themselves worthy of a full starters’ load, not just the 24 or 25 minutes per contest that both these guys average right now?
Will the Rockets’ Three-Point Shooting Ever Regress to the Mean?
You would think a team that attempts at least 10.6 threes more than any other team in the NBA would do so because it is decently successful with those shots. However, the Rockets have been very inefficient taking long-distance shots this season.
The squad is hitting 30.8 percent from outside, which is the third-worst mark in the NBA. If they were at last season’s mark (35.7), they would have scored approximately 53 extra points this season, or nearly seven extra points per game.
The biggest culprit is Trevor Ariza (18.8 percent), but Eric Gordon (30.2 percent) and Luc Mbah a Moute (23.8 percent) are also shooting much worse than they did last season. Is this the game they turn things around?
Can the Knicks’ Point Guards Provide Any Sort of Offensive Spark?
Ever since Chris Paul injured his knee in the first game of the season, the Rockets’ James Harden has gone back to point guard, the position where he thrived last season.
Against the Knicks, Harden has a massive advantage at his position. New York has 34-year-old Jarrett Jack starting and 19 year-old Frank Ntilikina and 31-year-old Ramon Sessions backing him up. Jack and Sessions may have been serviceable starters at one point, but they are past their prime. Ntilikina has plenty of potential, but he’s terribly raw.
If the Knicks want to have a chance in this game, one (or more) of those three needs to outplay their current skill level and not let Harden’s production utterly dominate them.
Our Preview’s Rockets vs. Knicks Betting Predictions & Picks
The Knicks are hot, and Houston isn’t. However, these teams are very different in terms of talent, with the advantage obviously to the Rockets. I like the chances of some regression to the mean for both teams. So here are this preview’s picks and predictions for the game tonight:
- The Rockets are slated as 5pt or 5.5pt favorites in this contest. Place your bet with 5Dimes, who have the best odds of Rockets -5pts @ -110.
- As for the total points to be scored in this game, I keep thinking Houston’s shooting is going to get back to normal. With even an average shooting performance, the squad should hit around 115 against a weak Knicks defense. Pick the over 212.5pts @ -110 with Bookmaker. The others have the spread a touch higher at 213pts.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.