- The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors clash on Christmas Day (Dec. 25, 5 PM ET)
- Golden State has been hit hard by injuries but is playing its best ball of the season
- Houston has won four straight and is a 10-point road favorite
The third game of the NBA Christmas day quintuple-header looked a lot more compelling back in the preseason. James Harden and the Houston Rockets travel to the Bay Area to face a Golden State Warriors team that looks nothing like its former championship self. Two-thirds of the Warriors big three are out, and Golden State has a Western Conference-low seven wins this season.
To nobody’s surprise, Houston opened as a big road favorite as they search for a fifth straight victory. The Rockets are just 14-15 ATS this season, but are fresh off back-to-back covers. The Warriors meanwhile, have also beaten the number in two straight, and are 5-5 ATS as a home underdog this season.
Houston Rockets vs Golden State Warriors Odds
|Houston Rockets||-600||-10.5 (-110)||Over 228 (-110)|
|Golden State Warriors||+440||+10.5 (-110)||Under 228 (-110)|
All odds taken Dec. 24th
The Rockets won the first meeting between these two teams by 17 in November, but Golden State is currently playing its best ball of the season.
Draymond Green asked about his young Warriors going against the Rockets on ABC on Christmas: “They let us keep the ABC game?” pic.twitter.com/7SNYUKRBWM
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 24, 2019
Tightening Up on Defense
For the first 15 games of the season the Warriors had one of the worst defensive ratings in NBA history. But over the past month, they’ve turned a corner on defense. They rank 14th in the league in defensive rating over their last 10 games, and have held opponents to 108.4 points per contest, which is 5 points below their season average.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 24, 2019
They’ve limited opponents to 104 points or less in three of their last four, and last time out they erased Minnesota’s offense through three quarters. The Warriors held the T-Wolves to 67 points through the first 36 minutes, which helped them build a 17-point lead.
From there Golden State cruised to victory, marking the first time all season they’ve won back-to-back games.
Golden State's defense has been much improved over the last few games. Possessions like this show a team learning to play together. pic.twitter.com/36vO4itReZ
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) December 24, 2019
The improved Warriors defense will have its hands full on Christmas Day against a Rockets squad that leads the West in points per game.
When you think Houston, you think James Harden and rightfully so. The 2017-18 MVP is averaging 38.6 points per game, which is seven more than any other player. He leads the league in usage, three-point field goals made and ranks second in PER.
James Harden now has the 4th-most 40-point games ever after dropping 47 last night ? pic.twitter.com/jct7a8j0LS
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 22, 2019
On Saturday, he dropped 47 on the Phoenix Suns, which marked the 10th time this season he’s eclipsed the 40-point plateau. He’s always been the catalyst of the Rockets offense, but lately Russell Westbrook has been nearly as effective.
James Harden and Russell Westbrook have both scored 25 or more points in each of the Rockets' last four games. Two other duos in team history have scored 25+ points in four straight games: Elvin Hayes/Calvin Murphy (Feb. 1971) and Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming (Apr. 2007). @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/rLzCuMMpxL
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) December 24, 2019
Over his last eight games, Russ is putting up 29 points per outing and making 50% of his field goals. He’s hitting 36.4% of his threes and is benefitting from all the extra attention Harden draws. Houston is 7-1 during Westbrook’s resurgence, and if they continue to get this kind of production from both their stars, they’re going to be very tough to beat.
Roll With the Rockets
This is a big spread for Houston to cover, but they certainly have the firepower to do so. They’ve scored more than 113 points in 13 of their past 15 outings, and now that both Harden and Westbrook are both rolling, the Warriors will be hard pressed to match the Rockets offensive production.
Yes, Golden State is playing much better defense, but it should be noted that they haven’t beaten a team with an above .500 record all season. Furthermore, the last time they faced an elite offense they gave up 142 points to the Mavericks. Roll with the Rockets on Christmas Day.
Pick: Rockets -10.5 (-110)