Tuesday night's defeat at Oklahoma was only Houston's third defeat since January 25th; the other two were forgivable road losses against Golden State and the LA Clippers. Their form has propelled them to genuine contenders for the No.1 spot in the excruciatingly tight Western Conference. With only 3.5 games separating the top 4 seeds, each regular season game carries significant importance for the Rockets. Houston is up for the dogfight. Sunday night's overtime win over Portland Sunday night in one of the most memorable games of the year demonstrated all the characteristics of a team that believes they are contenders. Down double digit figures for large parts of the 2nd half and losing every 50/50 call from the officials, the Rockets – led by James Harden and Jeremy Lin – fought back to tie the game and subsequently finish the job in OT.
Chicago occupies 4th spot in the Eastern Conference and has also enjoyed a good month despite offloading one of their stars, Luol Deng in February and of course losing superstar Point Guard Derrick Rose for a second season running. This has been largely down to the excellent all-round play Joakim Noah who has been the best player in the NBA in March. Noah is putting up career numbers in points, rebounds and assists. He is the best Center in the NBA at this very moment in time and that includes his opposite number, Dwight Howard.
Despite Houston boasting the 3rd best offense in the league, the Under 194.0 is a safer bet here. The Bulls are the NBA's bottom-ranked team offensively but play excellent Defence under an excellent defensive coach in Tom Thibodeau . Foul trouble could also have an influence on the outcome of both the Moneyline and the Totals market here. Teams have been adopting a "Hack-a-Dwight" policy even more of late but as witnessed Sunday night this can backfire. Damien Lillard fouled out and a host of Trailblazers players were in foul trouble. Then there's the eagerly anticipated battle between Noah and Howard at Center. Noah's passion could get him in trouble but could equally draw technicals from Howard if he can get under Superman's skin. However, Noah is currently more important to the Bulls than Dwight is to the Rockets, who have a solid back-up in Omer Asik and can rely on superstar James Harden to carry the team. The Rockets had too much for Chicago in the reverse fix in December when they ran out 15 point winners. This will be a much tighter affair but I expect Houston to have a little too much for Chicago again.
All prices current on matchbook.com at time of writing
We're now at 75% on the year, would like to get that figure over 80 and maintain from there. The Bulls will be looking to go above the 50% win mark and claim their first win in 4 tonight. The Bulls go into tonight on a real low as they have lost Derrick Rose for another season and they are coming in on the back of a 39 point blowout at the hands of the Clippers. That said, the Jazz have been comfortably the worst team in the NBA this season, not only losing 14 of 15 but losing almost all of them by double digits. Their young side won't have the experience to deal with this Bulls side, no matter how bruised the Bulls may be. Enes Kanter looks a doubt so that really limits any chance Utah had of winning battles inside and Noah and Boozer should look to bully their younger counterparts. Trey Burke is now setting out on his NBA career after early season injury and this should add to the disjointedness of the Jazz outfit. Though a fan of Burke, he had a tough time in Summer League and will take a while to settle in. The Jazz are also playing a back-to-back, coming off a 22 point loss to the Thunder in which their starting 5 contributed an embarrassing 29 points. The Bulls are hurting but the Jazz are bleeding out. Expect the Bulls to take care of business tonight.
Season Win %: 75
Point Spread current on www.matchbook.com at time of writing
Houston and Detroit did the business for us last night so we pushed through the 70% mark for the year. Lots of tempting lines around tonight and Paddy Power are offering a money-back special on 5+ team accumulators when one leg lets you down. If your going with that option, Take the Warriors, Trailblazers, Pelicans and Clippers on the Moneyline along with the Rockets on the spread. If you are sticking with the exchanges then take the Rockets again tonight. Dallas have started better than I expected. Monta Ellis has gelled with the team and not been as wasteful as we have seen in recent times. On the inside, veteran Samuel Dalembert has provided very solid minutes and DeJuan Blair represents an excellent piece of business by Mark Cuban. I'm still taking the Rockets to continue their run and the cushion of a 3.5 spread on top works well here. Terrence Jones had another stellar night as he netted 24 points on 10-12 shooting as he continues to impress as a starter. Its a back-to-back for Houston but in truth they had it easy last night and should be fresh and confident as they continue to improve. Take them on the ML if you are feeling bold.
Point Spread correct on www.matchbook.com at time of writing