Houston Rockets vs. New Orleans Hornets Preview and Pick

Houston Rockets +3.5 (43-25) at New Orleans Hornets -3.5 (41-24) O/U 182 8 PM ET Monday March 16, 2009
By Jason Green at Predcitem.com

Tonight the Houston Rockets travel to the Big East to play the New Orleans Hornets. Currently the Rockets are in the 3rd position in the Western Conference and the Hornets are in 5th, but there is only game difference between the 2 in the standings. Even though both teams are coming off a loss they are both playing well, as the Rockets are 6-4 in their last 10 games and the Hornets are 8-2 in their last 10. Teams that are in the 3rd through 8th position in the West are only separated by 2.5 games in the standings and the last quarter of the season will be a battle to see who can snag home court advantage in the playoffs. Many thought the Rockets would be toast after they lost Tracy McGrady for the season, but they have hung in there and have actually played better without him in the lineup. The Hornets looked to trade Tyson Chandler, but he failed his physical. That may be a good thing, as the Hornets will need his inside presence if they are going to do any damage in the post season.

This season the Hornets are 23-9 at home and the Rockets are 16-17 on the road.

Hoops bookies have the Hornets as 3.5-point favorites in this game with a total around 182. The Hornets are posted at -200 as home favorites and the Rockets are posted at +170 as away dogs.

The Rockets come into this game after losing to the San Antonio Spurs 88-85 on Saturday night. The high scorer for the Rockets in that game was Ron Artest going for 21 points on 7/19 shooting. For the game the Rockets shot 33/79 for a FG% of 41.8%. On D the Rockets allowed the Spurs to shoot 34/81 for a FG% of 42%.

The Hornets come into this game after getting crushed by the Chicago Bulls 97-79 on Saturday night. The high scorer for the game for the Hornets was Chris Paul going for 29 points on 13/20 shooting and also grabbing 6 rebounds and handing out 6 assists. Paul is the only Hornet that showed up in Chicago, as only 2 other players scored in double digits and they scored only 10 points each. For the game the Hornets shot 35/81 for a FG% of 43.2%. On D the Hornets allowed the Bulls to shoot 40/85 for a FG% of 47.1%.

Neither of these teams are lighting up the scoreboard this year, as the Rockets rank 19th in scoring (98.5 ppg) and the Hornets rank 25th (96.2 ppg). Defense is where these teams shine, as the Hornets rank 4th this season in points allowed (93.5 ppg) and the Rockets rank 7th (94.8 ppg). Both of these teams are decent on the boards, as the Rockets have a rebounding differential of +2.5 rpg and the Hornets re at +0.2 rpg.

This season the Rockets are 32-32-1 ATS and the Hornets are 28-35-2. In terms of Over/Under games the Rockets are 33-34-1 and the Hornets are 28-36-1.

On the injury front SF Peja Stojakovic is day-to-day for the Hornets and the Rockets are reporting no significant injuries.

Both of these teams are legit on defense, but need to pick it up offensively down the stretch. The Rockets have averaged 74 ppg shot 35.1% from the field in losing their last 2 road games against the Hornets.

Chris Paul cannot do it all, as it showed in their loss to the Bulls, as David West (20 ppg) and Tyson Chandler (8.9 ppg) have to help him out on the offensive end. The Hornets are hoping Peja Stojakovic (13.8 ppg) can go tonight, as he has killed the Rockets in the past averaging 23.8 ppg in his last 8 games against Houston.

The key to this game may be whether Chandler can step out and play D on Yao Ming (19.7 ppg). If Ming is hitting his mid-range jumpers Chandler will have to leave the lane to defend him, which will open it up for Ron Artest (16.8 ppg). Luis Scola (12.7 ppg) and Aaron Brooks (11.4 ppg) to go to the hoop without a big man in the middle.

This game is important, as the winner will move up in the West and the loser will move down. Home court is vital in the first round and neither team wants to face the Lakers in the 2nd round.

Jason’s Pick: Take the Rockets plus the points.