Is it a sign that Dwight Howard's star is on the wane after he wasn't voted by NBA fans into this season's All Star starting line-ups? Possibly. But the centre still has a massive importance to the Houston Rockets as they look to make headway in the Western Conference.
Howard is averaging 18.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per game in the Rockets 29-15 start.
Their defence hasn’t been the power many expected, giving up 102 per game – a factor to consider when viewing their odds of 10.00 to take the West title – but they take on the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night knowing holding their foes in check hasn’t been a problem so far.
In two losses to Houston, Memphis scored just 89.0, 6.9 below its average. That’s despite Howard compiling 8.5 points and 6.5 rebounds on average over both.
However he’ll have to go up against Marc Gasol, whose return to the Grizzles has coincided with their run of five wins out of six as their own defensive reputation has been repaired.
The Grizzlies are 2.95 for the win but if they can maintain their current lockdown, we might see Houston grounded under the total points line of 197.5.
The OKC Thunder are -6.5 on the match handicap to make it a sixth successive victory when they visit the Boston Celtics, and with Kevin Durant averaging a NBA-best 31 points per game, Oklahoma City are holding on admirably without Russell Westbrook.
Durant's average has gone up to 36.5 over his last 15 games, which figures to be a problem for Boston who had lost 15 of 17 until sneaking by Washington in overtime two days ago.
But the Celtics have managed to frustrate opponents on their homecourt which could keep this one under the total points line of 197.5.
Best bet: Go under the total points line of 197.5 in Houston-Memphis at 1.90