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Dropping NBA Dimes: Odds the Rockets win the West

Can James Harden and Chris Paul lead the Rockets past Golden State? Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The NFL celebrations have officially dissolved and the NBA All-Star weekend is now in the rearview. With teams having from 21-27 games left on their schedules, the race for seeding is getting tight. This year's Western Conference is currently overseen by two dynamic outfits. The Rockets are on a historic pace and have shown they can compete in the era of "super teams," while the defending champions are dominating as expected.

Flashback to last seasons All-Star break and Golden State sat at 47-9. Coming off the historic 73-9 campaign, the league-leading record had the feeling of being less than stellar according to the team's expectations. This year, the Warriors own a 45-14 record, their worse pace in three years. Even worse for the defending champions, they don't even hold the No. 1 seed in the West at the moment. Leading the way this year are the Houston Rockets at 44-13 ( played two games less than G.S.). The Western Conference seems to be a two horse race with the gap between the second and third seeds being 10 games. According to the playoffsatus.com, the Warriors and Rockets are 51% and 49% to win the top 2 seeds. The Timberwolves and Spurs are the next seeds, and both have less than 1% chance of catching the two front runners. After the No. 3 and 4, the drop off is also substantial on projected seeds, with Minnesota and San Antonio both having a greater than 30% chance of securing the 3 and 4 seeds while the next contenders have an 8% to end in the top 4.

Let's look at the similarities in the 2 leaders
2016-2017- Warriors
Offensive rating: 114.2 (1st)
Defensive rating: 101.6 (2nd)

2017-2018- Warriors
Offensive rating: 115.8 (1st)
Defensive rating: 107.7 (22nd)

2017-2018 Rockets
Offensive rating: 114.1 (2nd)
Defensive rating: 105.4 (12th)

As you can see, Golden State has increased their offensive scoring, but they have dropped off drastically on the defensive end.
The Warriors have the second best record straight up but ATS they have not been profitable, going 25-32-2  (26th).

Their nemesis Houston wins 77.2% of their games straight up and are dead even at 28-28-1 ATS (17th).

Getting home court advantage in the playoffs is paramount for the Rockets, where they have been majestic going 23-6. The only problem is the books have caught up to the success they are having and have made them an expensive buy, day in day out. For gamblers, Houston is 11-17-1 ATS only covering 39.3% of the games played at the Toyota Center. If these two juggernauts indeed face off in the playoffs, how many home games would Houston even be favored in? The last time they played in Houston, the Warriors opened as 3.5 point road favorites. Houston also holds the tie breaker and these teams have no games scheduled the rest of the regular season.

Here are some futures odds for the Western Conference:

To Win the West:
Golden State Warriors        5/12
Houston Rockets                  11/4
Oklahoma City Thunder     16/1
San Antonio Spurs               16/1
Minnesota Timberwolves   25/1
Utah Jazz                               40/1
Denver Nuggets                    80/1
New Orleans Pelicans        125/1
Portland Trail Blazers        125/1
Los Angeles Clippers          150/1
Los Angeles Lakers            250/1
Memphis Grizzlies           1000/1
Dallas Mavericks              2500/1
Phoenix Suns                    2500/1
Sacramento Kings            2500/1

At first glance, you might be enticed to jump on the Rockets to win the West at those odds. But an interesting fact to keep in mind is that the Warriors have the easiest strength of schedule in the entire West to close out the season. The Rockets, on the other hand, play the fifth toughest schedule in the conference down the stretch. If getting home court is a priority, Houston will have to keep the pace they are playing at and close out strong. Their final four games will all be against potential playoff teams, playing at Spurs, then finishing on a three-game homestand vs. the Wizards, Blazers and Thunder.

Golden State will have it fairly easier in the closing games of the season, where in their final six contests they get Phoenix twice, the Kings, Thunder, Pacers, and the Pelicans.

The race for the top seed will go come down to the final weeks, and the final stretch of games will be the deciding factor. If Houston wants to host the Western Conference finals, they need to continue the success this season.

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter

 

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Houston is falling down the rankings

Tigers pound Odorizzi, Astros with homers as Houston drops fourth in a row

The Astros have not looked great in their last four games. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After watching their hot start of 6-1 cool down to a 6-4 record with three straight losses, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park on Tuesday night, looking to do a better job at home against a beatable Tigers team.

Recent games' woes would continue, though, with Houston's pitching getting blasted by the opposing offense and their own bats primarily quiet.

Final Score: Tigers 8, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-5, tied for second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Matthew Boyd (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (0-1)

Astros score first, then Tigers unload on Odorizzi

Houston looked to have something brewing in the bottom of the second, with three singles in the first four batters of the inning, the third an RBI-single by Myles Straw to put the Astros in front 1-0. However, Matthew Boyd would limit the damage, getting back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat.

After two easy innings for Jake Odorizzi in his regular-season debut for his new team, he would allow a game-tying solo homer to Akil Baddoo, his fourth of the year, in the top of the third. Detroit struck again in the top of the fourth, getting a leadoff double to set up a two-run go-ahead home run to jump ahead 3-1.

They didn't stop there, getting another two-run bomb later in the same inning; a frame that would take Odorizzi 31 pitches to get only one out before Houston would bring in Bryan Abreu to get the last two outs. Odorizzi's final line in his debut: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 4 K, 80 P.


Detroit continues home run parade, Houston loses fourth in a row

Abreu would hope to do what Luis Garcia did the night before, eat up as many innings as possible after a poor outing from Houston's starter. The Tigers would get yet another two-run homer, though, in the top of the fifth, extending their lead to 7-1, with all seven runs coming over a three-inning span. For good measure, they'd knock one more out with two outs in the top of the ninth, making it 8-1.

As far as Houston at the plate, other than their string of hits to bring in a run earlier in the second, they were getting nothing done against Boyd, who would go six and two-thirds innings. Detroit's bullpen would finish things off, despite an all-too-late sac fly by the Astros in the bottom of the ninth, with Houston dropping their fourth-straight game and continuing to lose ground in the division.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set with Detroit will be an hour earlier on Wednesday, getting underway at 6:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will try to maintain his perfect record and improve upon his two five-inning one-run starts for the Astros, going opposite of Michael Fulmer (0-0, 2.57 ERA) for the Tigers.

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