Houston -4 at Denver O/U 209.5
NBA starting lineups and rotations can often create a delicate balance between winning and losing. There’s probably no better current example of that than the Houston Rockets who are now playing the best basketball they’ve played all season. Houston’s offseason acquisition of speedy guard Ty Lawson was expected to increase and improve an already high tempo, high scoring offense. Instead, the insertion of Lawson into the lineup seemed to disrupt rather than enhance. The team’s mediocre performance was a key ingredient in the early season firing of Kevin McHale and the subsequent negative chatter about the novice like ability of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff. Then, nine games ago Bickerstaff made a starting lineup switch going back to the old look with Patrick Beverly at point guard. That subtle change has turned into a 7-2 SU and 6-3 ATS run and it has quieted a portion of Bickerstaff’s critics. Beverly’s positive influence on Houston’s starting lineup chemistry is undeniable as his hounding defense, 3-point shooting, and floor leadership are all elements the Rockets were lacking. Houston has gone 0-2 against Denver thus far this season but tonight figures to be different since it’s the first time Beverly will start against them. He should be very effective tonight in his matchup with Nuggets veteran backup PG Jameer Nelson who is starting in place of the injured Emmanuel Mudiay. Denver has been a mess at the Pepsi Center this season going 3-8 ATS overall and 2-6 ATS as an underdog. With Houston better equipped for this meeting (starting C Dwight Howard now healthy enough to play in recent back-to-back situation), expect them to be too much for the youthful Nuggets who have Michael Malone frustrated more often than not. Line has ticked up a notch this morning but still see some room for the surging Rockets who are averaging 111.6 ppg over their last nine games. Denver’s season long poor shooting (42.4 FG% 26th, 96.8 ppg 25th) likely allows Houston to create margin over the course of 48 minutes.