It’s the first big grudge match of the new season on Thursday night. And Dwight Howard will have more than a point to prove when he faces the Los Angeles Lakers for the first time since bolting for the Houston Rockets.
The saving grace for the All Star is that the game is in Houston and that Kobe Bryant will be a mere spectator rather than in a position to try and make a statement of his own. And so far, Howard has got the better of the deal with the Rockets shooting to a 4-1 start, which is why they’re favoured by -13 on the handicap. The Lakers, with just two wins so far, are priced at a mammoth 9.00 for victory.
It figures to be a struggle in LA, even when Bryant comes back. Defensively, the Lakers aren’t stopping anyone, giving up at least 103 points on four occasions. While Pau Gasol, averaging just 14.6 points so far is as prolific as it gets. His side were crushed 123-104 by Dallas on Tuesday and with a similar combination of talents, back Houston to have Howard’s back.
There’s a potential Finals preview when the LA Clippers visit the Miami Heat. And although the Clips have enough offensive firepower to give Miami problems, it’s their defence which is proving a massive headache for coach Doc Rivers.
LA is giving up a league-worst 109.6 points per night, an extraordinary amount, and even when they held Orlando to 90 on Wednesday, they still lost by eight while shooting a mere 37.9%.
Chris Paul is averaging a career-high 24.8 points this term but the Clippers are allowing teams to score too often inside. With Chris Bosh set to return for Miami, take the Heat to scorch their rivals.
Best Bet: Go under 218.5 total points in Houston-LA Lakers at 1.91.