Are the Houston Rockets the best team in the NBA? They are at the top of the standings, slightly better than the Golden State Warriors, and it looks like they’ll have to win every game to remain there. That hasn’t been a problem for James Harden and his gang. The Rockets haven’t lost a game in over a month, picking up their 14th straight victory with a win over the Clippers on Wednesday. Their ugliest game of the season came in Boston at the end of December when they blew a 26-point lead and fell by a point.
Houston gets a chance to avenge that defeat and extend its winning streak when the Rockets and Celtics meet for a primetime matchup on Saturday. The Eastern Conference is more tightly-packed at the top, but the Toronto Raptors currently hold the No. 1 seed. The Raps can prevent the Washington Wizards from moving up the standings when the two meet in our nation’s capital on Friday night.
Toronto Raptors at Washington Wizards
Date and Time: Friday, March 2, 2018, 8 p.m. ET
Location: Capital One Arena, Washington, DC
Opening NBA Game Odds: Check Back Later
Raptors at Wizards TV Coverage: ESPN
Toronto has been overlooked in the East all season, but the Raptors own the best record in the conference as they aim for their third consecutive 50-win campaign. It’s been the best stretch in the history of the franchise, but they haven’t been able to get past the Cavs the past two seasons, losing in the conference final two years ago and in the East semis last season. Led by the dynamic backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, this could be the year the Raps reach their first NBA Final.
The Wizards have fared well without John Wall, winning 10 of 14 games since their All-Star point guard was shelved with a knee injury. There was talk that the team is actually better without Wall, but that nonsense was silenced after a loss to the Warriors on Wednesday when Bradley Beal scored just eight points. You can’t take 19.4 points and 9.3 assists out of the lineup and expect to be better. And the Wizards face a tough schedule with their next 10 games against teams currently in a playoff spot.
The Wizards hung close with the Warriors playing the second game of a back-to-back, but the schedule makers have not done them any favors as the Wiz look to overtake the Cavaliers for the No. 3 seed in the East. Washington will be playing its third game in four nights and they’ve all been hectic.
A battle with the Bucks preceded the loss to the defending champs and now the Wiz get East-leading Toronto in another crucial meeting. At least they get to stay home where they knocked off the Raps last month in a tilt that had playoff intensity.
Raptors at Wizards Free Picks
With Lowry and DeRozan combining to average over 40 points per game, the Raptors have a decided edge in the backcourt with Wall sidelined. Lowry is an 85 percent free-throw shooter and his costly misses allowed the Wiz to escape with a victory in the last meeting. Don’t expect that to happen again and you know he’s looking to make up for that faux pas.
Raptors at Wizards ATS Pick: Check Back Later
Raptors at Wizards Score Prediction: Raptors 112, Wizards 107
Boston Celtics at Houston Rockets
Date and Time: Saturday, March 3, 2018, 8:30 p.m. ET
Location: Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Opening NBA Game Odds: Check Back Later
Celtics at Rockets TV Coverage: ABC
The Celtics still have the league’s most efficient defense, giving up just over 103 points per 100 possessions, and they are one of two teams in the NBA to surrender fewer than 100 points per game. When the offense gets going, the Celtics are hard to beat. And they got it going on after the All-Star break. The Cs won their fourth straight since the festivities and scorched the nets in a win over the Hornets. Since the break the Celtics are averaging 119 points per game.
Nothing has gotten in the way of the Rockets lately. They swept a three-game road trip and won their 14th consecutive game by exacting some revenge over the Clippers on Wednesday. After getting back at the Clips, who beat them twice earlier this season, the Rockets are looking for payback against Boston. Houston blew a 26-point lead at the Garden and some questionable calls late allowed the Celtics to pull out the 99-98 victory.
15.5 – The three-point shot revolutionized the NBA and the Rockets are taking it to a new level. They live and die by the triple and this season they’ve been living large. Every player on the team has the green light to launch a three and they’ve taken advantage of Mike D’Antoni’s scheme. Houston leads the NBA in threes made and attempted by a wide margin.
The Rockets make 15.5 per game, which is over three more per game than the next closest team. Harden leads the league with 219 made threes despite missing several games earlier in the year and five players have made over 100.
Celtics at Rockets Free Picks
There is that winning streak and trying to stay ahead of the Warriors in the West which will motivate the Rockets. But nothing will get them going more than revisiting the first matchup with the Celtics. Losing the game wasn’t so bad since Boston is one of the top teams in the East, but it’s how they lost that lingers. Championship teams don’t blow 26-point leads and that will give Houston added incentive. The Rockets won’t win all their remaining games, but getting this one will be huge in what could be a Finals preview.
Celtics at Rockets ATS Pick: Check Back Later
Celtics at Rockets Score Prediction: Rockets 109, Celtics 105