A Rockets Trend To Capitalize On In The Second Half

For the third-consecutive year, Vegas has inflated game totals in contests involving Houston

Bukowsky18, Flickr
  • The OVER has gone 23-31 in games the Houston Rockets have played this season. Their 43.6 OVER percentage is the lowest rate in the NBA.

  • Last season, the OVER went 40-47-6 (46%) in Houston’s games, which ranked 21st in the Association.

  • In 2017-2018, the OVER hit just 40.2% of the time (39-58-2). This ranked 29th in the NBA. 

  • As long as Vegas continues to over-inflate the opening totals, the UNDER will continue to be the best bet when Houston steps on the floor.

Some NBA fans might argue that the Houston Rockets, with two of the top 10 players in the league in James Harden and Russell Westbrook, are overrated. That’s subjective, depending upon how good you think Harden and Westbrook actually are. What’s not subjective and is a stone-cold fact is that the over has been a bad bet in Rockets’ games for the past three seasons. When it comes to hitting the over, you might call them underachievers. It begs the question: Why are oddsmakers inflating the totals in Houston’s games?

Looking Back

In the 2017-18 season, the Rockets were one of the best teams in the NBA. They were 65-17 and finished first in the Western Conference and eventually were up 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. A Chris Paul injury dashed their hopes of advancing to the Finals as they fell to the Warriors in 7 games. The Rockets averaged 112 points per game that year, good for second in the NBA. But, more often than not, oddsmakers set the total too high in their games, as the over went just 39-58-2. What they overlooked that year was how effective Houston’s defense was. The grit and toughness of Chris Paul was infectious for the typically offensive-minded team as they ranked sixth in points allowed, giving up just 103.9 points per game.

The next season, 2018-19, was more of the same. The over went 40-47-6, which ranked 21st in the NBA. Coming off a great 2017-18 season, expectations were high, but it was a down year as the Rockets finished fourth in the Western Conference at 53-29 and bowed out in the second round. Cracks in the Paul-Harden relationship surfaced as Harden took over the offense from Paul and had a career year, averaging a league-high 36.1 points per game. Harden was so dynamic and prolific that oddsmakers likely inflated the over in part due to the numbers he was putting up. But in reality, it was pretty much a one-man show as Paul’s numbers were down and he missed a lot of games due to injuries.

This Year

As we all know, Paul was sent packing to Oklahoma City in the off season and in return, the Rockets brought back superstar Russell Westbrook. Expectations were sky-high for the pairing of two of the best players in the NBA, Harden and Westbrook. The Rockets are once again in playoff contention at 34-20 and rank fifth in the Western Conference standings. They are second in the NBA averaging 118 points per game, and individually, Harden and Westbrook have been as great as advertised. Harden is averaging 35.3 points per game, which leads the league, and Westbrook is 7th in the league at 27.2 points per game. But the over is 23-31 in their contests, which is dead-last in the league. What gives?

Houston possesses the fourth-best offensive rating in the NBA (113.2), amounting to 118.2 points per game (2nd), but has a league-average defensive rating of 109.8 (15th) which has led to 114.5 points surrendered per contest (22nd). Since they completely morphed their playing style to suit the addition of Westbrook (they rank second in pace after finishing 27th in that regard last season) and are a dominant offensive squad, oddsmakers have plenty of reasons to respect the potential of a shootout in any game that the Rockets are involved in, but they’ve overshot the mark the majority of the time this year. As we head into the home stretch after the All-Star break, it will be interesting to see if books decide to alter their strategy. If public and sharp bettors haven’t caught onto the trend yet, a similar approach will likely continue, which could be an edge for bettors to attack.