Saturday, February 23 at 8:30 PM ET
The Houston Rockets visit the Golden State Warriors in a rematch of last year's Western Conference Finals but James Harden, who is on one of the hottest scoring streaks in NBA history, having finished with at least 30 points in 32 consecutive games, might not play.
The Rockets are struggling, losing three of their last four games, including a tough 111-106 road setback against the Lakers last Thursday, when they blew a 19-point lead while the Warriors were able to hold off the Kings 125-123 on Thursday night.
Houston has had Golden State's number this season, beating them 107-86 at the Toyota Center and 135-134 at the ORACLE Arena but both teams were missing key players both times.
If he plays, Harden will face both his easiest and most difficult primary defenders.
When comparing Harden's key matchup numbers with other Golden State defenders it's easy to see why the Rockets design sets to target Curry. Harden is much more aggressive and much more successful against Curry than against any other Warriors player, with his usage rate surging to a ridiculous 50.7 and when Curry guards him he's more than twice as likely to drive the ball to the basket and get to the free-throw line.
This is by no means a knock on Curry's defense, it just goes to show that all of the other defenders in the Warriors are world-class. The Rockets isolating and attacking Curry at freakish rates says a lot about their respect for Draymond Green, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. Isolating Curry isn't their best choice but it's their only chance to beat the Warriors.
According to Second Spectrum, over the past three seasons Harden has matched up against 42 individual players at least 100 times, but none results in free-throws as frequently as the Curry showdown. Of those 42 defenders, Iguodala has done the best work against Harden, holding him to 17.2 points per 100 possessions on a 21.0 effective field goal percentage. While those are atrocious numbers for Harden, they prove why Iguodala is one of the most powerful defensive weapons for the Warriors come playoff time.
The Over is:
8-3 in Houston's last 11 games against Pacific Division opponents
5-2-1 in Houston's last eight games when their opponent allows 100 points or more in their previous game
10-4 in Golden State's last 14 games against Western Conference opponents
16-7 in Golden State's last 23 games when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game
Rockets – 2nd (111.6 points scored per 100 possessions)
Warriors – 1st (114.9 points scored per 100 possessions)
James Harden is questionable at the moment with a cervical strain, which is most likely affecting the line. There's no word on him being out so I'll wait and see until there's confirmation. That said, the offensive efficiency of both teams should still put this game Over the total.
NBA Picks: Over 234 (-110) and Rockets +9 (-110) at Jazz Sports
Check odds here: http://bit.ly/jazzsportsON