The Houston Rockets won their fifth game in a row last night, routing the Memphis Grizzlies, the same team that handed them two of their three losses this season.
While the Warriors are destroying any team that shares the floor with them this month, the Rockets are doing the very same thing with seemingly less people taking notice. Houston beat Cleveland by four in a great game on Thursday night; the other four wins in their current streak came by 22, 15, 27 and 15 again.
The dominance has come with Chris Paul out. James Harden has been historically good to start the season. Not only is he scoring more efficiently than he ever has before, he became the first player in NBA history to make six three-pointers or more in five straight games.
Then there’s Clint Capela, who was recently lauded by his Head Coach publicly for transforming into one of the league’s elite centers. Now in his second full season as a starter, Capela has the NBA’s best field goal percentage and is hitting 78.3 percent of his free throws, up from 53 percent last season and 38 the season before that. His defensive and unselfish style of play has Houston playing as well as any team in the world right now.
Next up for the Rockets: Indiana.
The spot is obviously difficult for Houston here. The Rockets traveled after their home game last night and will have to deal with the fatigue against an Indiana team that likes to run.
The Pacers score the eight-most points per game in the NBA this season, three spots below Houston’s top-five offense. But while the Rockets do it with super efficiency, the Pacers go at opponents with a torrid pace with the hope of wearing them down. Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison are sure to push with every chance they get tonight against tired legs. The Rockets only go seven deep with Paul out and even last night in a game they led by between 15 and 25 just about the whole night, the Rockets only played their core seven guys significant minutes. Harden logged 37 minutes and Eric Gordon 32. Capela’s 35 were way above his average.
And Houston may very well fun out of steam. Then again, the Rockets are built to run and play games up in the 120s. If there is a team that would be willing to run a little harder on the second night of a back-to-back, its the Rockets. That’s basically what this one comes down to. Houston is far superior to the Pacers (who just ended a four-game losing streak with a win over the Bulls) and its in top form. If the Rockets can dig down deep and run with Indiana for 48 more minutes, they will cover this number without any problem.
Free Pick: Houston -3
Houston Rockets • Indiana Pacers • James Harden