Jan 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) and center Dwight Howard (12) in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
The first game of the series the odds makers favored Houston by 5.0 points and they easily covered the spread. For game 2 they once again favor the Rockets this time by 6.5 points and an over/under of 215.
Based on what we saw in Game 1, as much as the Rockets really seemed to be in control there were several areas they could improve. Specifically Howard needs to stay on the court to offset Tyson Chandler and Smith needs to play with more control.
On the Dallas side the main issue was Monta Ellis not being able to get rolling coupled with not knowing whether Chandler Parsons was being limited by the Rockets’ defense or his injured knee.
Entering the series we pinpointed the key would likely come down to whether Dallas could improve their low ranked defense versus whether the Rockets could replicate their regular season efforts while bettering their much higher ranked defense. The latter being more likely given the return of Howard and Jones to the squad who ranked in the top 3 for the majority of the season without them on the court.
It’s not the end of the world if Dallas lose tonight since they’ll head home for Games 3 and 4, but a win by the Rockets would certainly go a long way to bolstering their confidence and force Dallas into a must win situation.
Personally, I think James Harden and his Rockets are tired of being coined the top tier team who can be upset in the first round. They’ve been overlooked all season with many pundits not giving them credit for what they accomplished short handed. Though they still have key pieces missing (Beverley/Motiejunas) the current squad has the core components (starters Howard/Jone) who missed large portions of the season healthy and I think that will factor in the series as well as them taking a 2-0 lead in the series tonight. Rockets by 8 points. (If Parsons and Harris don’t play, Rockets by 15).
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