Welcome to the Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for tonight I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Season to Date:
ATS Picks: 17-13 (.567)
ATS Leans: 7-6-1 (.538)
Moneyline: 11-5 (.688)
Over/Under: 7-2 (.778)
12/20/18 NBA Betting Pick:
Houston Rockets (16-14) vs. Miami Heat (13-16)
Over/Under Total: 210.0
The Rockets roll into South Florida as one of the hotter teams in the NBA. They’ve rattled off five straight wins. However, as has been the case for the majority of the season, much of their success has come at home. Houston has notched four of those five victories at Toyota Center. And they’ve netted nine wins overall on their home floor. The Rockets’ one road triumph during the aforementioned five-game span came against an offensively challenged Grizzlies squad. That snapped a three-game away skid that consisted of losses to the Timberwolves, Jazz, and Mavericks.
Unsurprisingly, given their pedestrian 7-9 road record, the Rockets’ dynamic backcourt duo of James Harden and Chris Paul have seen some key metrics take a hit when they’ve traveled. For example, Harden is shooting 43.5 percent in away contests, a notable drop from the 48.5 percent he averages at Toyota Center. That figure includes a noticeable decline in his vaunted three-point prowess. Harden is draining 41.9 percent of his shots from behind the arc on his home floor and 34.5 on the road. Paul isn’t as sharp from distance when traveling either. He’s posting just a 29.9 percent success rate from three-point range outside of Toyota Center compared to 42.3 percent at home.
Given the relative struggles of their two most important players, it’s no wonder the Rockets are a less potent offensive team on the road. The 106.5 points per game Houston is scoring in away games represents a sharp drop from 113.1 at home. The Rockets writ large also see a drop in three-point shooting percentage (36.1 to 33.1) when traveling. The disparate home/road splits have also extended to defense. Houston has allowed at least 115 points in six of 16 away tilts.
Granted, the Heat still face quite the uphill battle as far as an outright win is concerned. But they could certainly benefit from being the better-rested squad. The Rockets will be playing on the second game of a back-to-back, as well as in their third game in four nights overall. Houston also had to make the late-night trip in from the Lone Star State after a Wednesday night win over the Wizards. In turn, the Heat last took the court on Sunday when they toppled the Pelicans. Miami is a solid 4-2 over the last six games and has won two of its last three home contests.
Finally, let’s examine a couple of other metrics that help make this matchup against a more talented team manageable for the Heat. Houston is tied with multiple teams for the seventh-highest shooting mark allowed on the road (47.6 percent). That vulnerability could give a nice boost to a Miami squad that’s drained an NBA-worst 42.9 percent of their attempts at home. Then, the Heat have been among the better teams in the league at preventing easy looks on their home court. They’re allowing just 44.1 percent of shots to fall at American Airlines Arena. That’s the seventh-lowest home figure in the NBA. Their strength in that area bodes well for their chances, considering the aforementioned shooting drop-off that both Harden and Paul suffer on the road.
By the Numbers
The Rockets are 13-16-1 (44.8 percent) against the spread overall this season. That includes a 6-10 mark (37.5 percent) versus the number as a road team and a 4-7 mark (36.4 percent) as road favorites. Then, Houston owns a 2-3 mark (40.0 percent) against the spread when playing on the second game of a back-to-back.
The Heat are 15-14 (51.7 percent) against the spread overall this season. That includes a 9-5 (64.3 percent) mark as underdogs. The Heat are also 7-5 (58.3 percent) against the number after a win, 9-3 versus the spread in non-conference games, and 5-1 (83.3 percent) against the number when playing on two or three days’ rest.
The Final Word
The Rockets are playing better than earlier in the season, but they still leave much to be desired in many of their road contests. They’re also likely to come into Thursday’s game a bit on the sluggish side, given their recent whirlwind schedule. In contrast, the Heat are very well-rested, which should help close the gap in talent between the clubs just a bit. While a Houston victory is certainly within the realm of possibility, I see the Heat at least coming in under the number in a close battle.
The Pick: Heat +3.5