Tuesday, September 8:
(1)Los Angeles Lakers (-5) vs. (4)Houston Rockets
- Moneyline: LAL -200
- Over/Under: 222.5
- Coverage: TNT at 9:00pm EST
Los Angeles’ second-round series against Houston has unfolded thus far in an eerily similar fashion to their opening-round series opposite Portland. After dropping game one, the Lakers bounced back with conviction to even the series, much to the chagrin of LeBron critics who spent the weekend discrediting The King’s aspirations for a fourth ring. In reality, the Lakers’ rusty game one loss shouldn’t surprise anyone; the purple and gold are an abysmal 1-6 ATS this season in games off 4+ days of rest, which was exactly how long the layoff was between the regular season and the playoffs, as well as between their first and second-round series. Game three, though, plays to the Lakers’ strength, as they rank third in the league in winning percentage off one day of rest. Further strengthening the case for Los Angeles is the return of Rajon Rondo, whose strong game two confirms that he’s acclimated to bubble basketball and can effectively counter Russell Westbrook. There’s no doubt Houston will put up a fight in game three, but look for Los Angeles to assert themselves late and gain control of the series.
Pick: Los Angeles Lakers -5
Points Matchup: James Harden (-0.5) vs. Anthony Davis
This Rapidfire matchup courtesy of Monkey Knife Fight features James Harden and Anthony Davis, both of whom led their respective sides in scoring in games one and two. Their playoff statistics are remarkably even thus far, with Harden attempting just one more field goal and scoring one more point per game than Davis, but their regular season statistics reveal a glaring discrepancy in scoring volume. Harden averaged 34.3 PPG to Davis’ 26.1 PPG in all regular season contests, and Harden’s mark of 29 PPG against the Lakers also eclipses Davis’ 24.5 PPG opposite the Rockets. Despite how impressively Davis has shot the ball during the playoffs, it’s tough to side with the big man when he’s pitted against a bona fide shooter and earner of three consecutive league scoring titles.
Pick: James Harden -0.5
- Amulya Shekhar / The Sports Rush
- Steve Gonzales / Houston Chronicle