New York Knicks 2.00, Houston Rockets 1.82 (BET and STREAM LIVE on Unibet TV from 01.00 GMT)
Chemistry is a fragile thing. One player out, the whole DNA of any team may combust. A new player arrives, and the code is radically altered. And although there seems very little to separate the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks ahead of Thursday’s showdown at Madison Square Garden, they appear two sides headed in opposite directions.
The Knicks (3-4), without the injured Tyson Chandler, have been hideous at times. The Rockets (5-4) with the arrival of Dwight Howard have also occasionally looked tortured. But while Houston is going through a natural re-adjustment, from an outside-shooting, offensive team to one with options inside, their opponents in NYC have no real excuses.
There’s plenty of continuity in New York, stability of coaching, veteran savvy. But they’ve lost three consecutive games at home, by an average of 15 points, and their best available line-up, with JR Smith joining Andrea Bargnani only has a +/- rating of 5.5, suggesting a lack of effectiveness as a team.
Contrast that with the Rockets most efficient five with a rating of 11.0, one which features Jeremy Lin and not James Harden, who may miss out tonight. That suggests that Houston can get off to a good start in the first quarter and then go on to take victory.
They’re still a work in progress with coach Kevin McHale trying to maximise the impact of pairing Howard and Omer Asik but there are the right components to deliver success in the spring (they’re 5.50 to win the West). The Knicks, even when Chandler returns, are riddled with problems that may not be fixable.
The Oklahoma City Thunder came up short against the Clippers on Wednesday so they’ll now go California dreaming of victory at the Golden State Warriors. It’s the first back-to-back for OKC but they have enough depth to cope, especially in early season.
Their only concern is Russell Westbrook’s shooting. Although the Thunder are 4-1 since his return from injury, he’s only shooting 34.8%. That will surely improve but they could do with Serge Ibaka or Jeremy Lamb emerging to fill the third scorer role left vacant by the successive departures of Kevin Martin and James Harden.
Stick with the Warriors to come up trumps on the handicap of -4.5 at 1.91 and go over the scoring line of 207.5.
Best Bet: Go over the total points line in Houston-New York.