Houston\'s defensive luck is likely going to run out against Portland tonight

Create: 2021-01-28
Update: 2021-01-28
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Thursday, January 28, 2021
It's finally happened. After years of subtly undermining Tom Fornelli's oral hygiene, I've finally seized control of his email empire. Your typical steward is indisposed at the moment thanks to a root canal, and while he will return shortly, I plan to make my brief tenure in his stead count. So welcome to Sam Quinn's reign of terror. Here's what you need to know about your temporary newsletterer: 
  • I'm temporarily shacked up in Vegas, which I would argue adds a layer of legitimacy to the proceedings
  • I was informed that I'd be subbing in for Tom yesterday as I attempted to negotiate LeBron Jame's MVP odds with the gentleman behind the counter at the Cosmopolitan's sportsbook
  • I am an adult man that celebrated the purchase of said market-value LeBron James MVP ticket by consuming two pixie sticks for the first time in 21 years. Fortunately, I hear Tom knows a good dentist…
If that doesn't make you want to take my gambling advice below, I don't know what will. 
All times Eastern, and all odds via William Hill Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets, 7:30 p.m. | TV: TNT
The Pick: Blazers +5 (-110): 
James Harden's defensive woes have been overblown for several years now, but his absence has galvanized the Rockets on that end of the floor in ways that nobody could've predicted. In the six games they've played since trading him, they're ranked second on defense. The catch is that success has come largely through shooting variance. Opponents are shooting only 30 percent on 3's against them in those six games, which is randomness that will eventually work against them.
That's especially problematic against a Blazers team that takes the second-most 3's per game in basketball. If Houston's luck regresses to the mean against Portland, things could get ugly fast. The argument against that regression is Portland's health, but they've scored 115.9 points per 100 possessions over the past three games without C.J. McCollum, so clearly, their depth is reliable. 
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: SportsLine's projection model generated selections for Thursday's matchup between the Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets.
💰 The Picks
Golden State Warriors at Phoenix Suns, 10 p.m. | TV: TNT
The Pick: Warriors +1.5 (-110): Sometimes it's just this simple: Steve Kerr is actually trying to win now. The Warriors coach acknowledged last week that if he needed a win, he wouldn't start the five-man unit of Stephen Curry, Andrew Wiggins, Kelly Oubre Jr., Draymond Green and James Wiseman, but was doing so in order to help the team gel for later in the season.
Well, he finally broke, inserting Kevon Looney into Wiseman's place. The Looney version has been Golden State's best lineup by point-differential by far this season. Unsurprisingly, it blasted Minnesota en route to two easy wins. Phoenix is trending in the opposite direction having lost seven of its past 10. Ride this Golden State wave until the books adjust. 
Los Angeles Lakers at Detroit Pistons, 8 p.m. | TV: League Pass
The Pick: Lakers -6.5 (-110): Yes, you're dealing with some lineup uncertainty here. Anthony Davis has only played in a single back-to-back so far this season, and he's dealing with a minor ankle issue. There's a good chance he sits. Who cares? The Lakers are outscoring opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions with LeBron James in the game and Davis out of it, according to Cleaning the Glass, and that number inflates against bad teams. The Lakers have nine double-digit wins this season. More than half of the league (16 teams) has fewer than nine wins in total. The Pistons are cannon fodder for an angry contender coming off of a close loss. 
🔒 SportsLine Pick of the Day: The SportsLine projection model has a pick for the clash between the Warriors and Suns.
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