Clippers vs. Rockets Game 3 Betting: Chris Paul Still Out?

clippers-vs-rockets-game-3Down double digits in the third quarter, the Houston Rockets looked like they were headed to an 0-2 deficit on their home court. However, the Rockets scraped back into Game 2 against the L.A. Clippers and prevailed 115-109. Now, action heads to Los Angeles for Game 3, which we’ll discuss below. But first, here’s a look at the Game 3 betting line:

Game Time: May 8th (Friday) at 10:30pm ET on ESPN
GTBets.eu Betting Line:
L.A. Clippers -4 (-110)       Over 217 (-110)
Houston Rockets (-110)    Under 217 (-110)

The Rockets were handled pretty easily in the first game of this series, falling 1117-101. And as mentioned before, they were struggling in Game 2 before coming back, thanks to James Harden scoring 16 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter. The MVP runner-up didn’t have his best shooting night, hitting only 7-of-17 shots overall, and 3-of-10 behind the arc. However, he was phenomenal from the free-throw line, going a perfect 15-for-15.

As a team, Houston made 42 out of 64 free throws – both franchise playoff records. Hack-a-Howard worked to perfection since he made only 8 out of 21 free throws. But what hurt L.A. was the rest of the Rockets making 34 out of 41 (82.9%). Howard more than made up for the bad free-throw shooting by scoring 24 points on an assortment of alley-oop dunks, along with 16 boards and four blocked shots.

For the Clippers, Blake Griffin’s early-game domination, 26 points in the first half, helped L.A. take control early. However, with Chris Paul still out with his hamstring injury and DeAndre Jordan in foul trouble, the Clippers couldn’t hang on to their lead. So what can they do to win? On the other side, what can the Rockets do to make it two in a row?

L.A.: Chris Paul needs to get Healthy, Jamal Crawford needs to hit Shots

chris-paul-injuryAustin Rivers has done a decent job, and Jamal Crawford not so much, in relief of Chris Paul. CP3 missed the first two games, and nobody can fill his ability to distribute the ball on this team. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee on when he’ll be ready to play. Regarding Paul’s status for Friday night’s game, head coach Doc Rivers said, ”My guess is it’s going to come down to the eye and feel test. With hamstrings, there really is no gauge.”

Going back to Crawford, he’s largely been really bad in this series. After committing 6 turnovers in Game 1, he shot just 6-of-22 in the second game, including 1-for-8 from behind the arc. He’s never made a high percentage of shots, but Crawford is hitting just 36.7% of his attempts in this series.

Houston: Must make Outside Shots, also play Small Ball More

trevor-arizaAs a team, the Rockets have really struggled with their shooting – especially behind the three-point line. They only made 5-of-26 three’s (19.2%) in Game 2, preceded by 11-for-33 in the first contest. This is not a team that overwhelms opponents inside like a Memphis or Chicago, so they need to shoot at least around 35% from beyond the arc to continue competing.

The other thing, Houston might want to consider playing small ball more often. When they were behind in the second half, coach Kevin McHale put his smaller lineup in and they took over the game. That’s not to say the Clippers won’t be more ready for small ball in Game 3. However, Trevor Ariza is good enough defensively to slow Blake Griffin down while the smaller lineup jump-starts the offense.

Game 3 Prediction: Houston 109 – L.A. 103

Patric Young – The Massive Leader of Florida’s 2014 Final Four Run

patric-young-florida-2It was all too tempting for Patric Young to leave Florida three years ago. After all, he was a guaranteed NBA Lottery pick…at least that was what everybody was telling the Hercules-looking, 6’9″ center. Before coming to Florida, Young was always known for his physique and potential above anything else. The imposing, 6’9″, 249-pound center was even compared to Dwight Howard during his days as a lottery prospect.

However, Young made a decision that would turn out to be a great one for both he and his school – he came back to Florida for his sophomore year. Then, he made two more great decisions by returning as a junior and senior.

The 22-year-old is no longer projected as a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. In fact, DraftExpress predicts that he’ll go 39th overall in their 2014 mock draft, with a slew of underclassmen and foreign players projected ahead of him. But with his Gators team playing seventh-seeded Connecticut later today when the Final Four kicks off, NBA Draft positioning is about the furthest thing from his mind.

Instead, Young is worried about leading Florida to their first national title in seven years. The key word here is “leading,” a testament to how he’s polished both his game and patric-young-floridamental skills during four seasons in Gainesville. Now, what he does for the Gators goes beyond just his solid numbers, 10.8 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 1.1 BPG. The heavily muscled postman has also helped the younger Gators develop their games too.

Take freshman Chris Walker, for example. Much like Young, he was a McDonald’s All-American who came to Billy Donovan’s squad with much hype. However, he missed half of the regular season due to a combination of poor academics and improper benefits that he received from agents. When Walker finally suited up for Florida in early February, he didn’t have a clue as to what was going on – that is until Young took the 6’10” forward under his wing. Donovan discussed Young’s leadership with the following:

He (Walker) had no idea about anything. He didn’t know how we stretched, how we lifted weights. He did not know any drill in practice. He didn’t know what we were doing on offense, defense. Didn’t know how to guard a pick and roll…As a coach, we spent a lot of time with Chris trying to get him caught up on what we do. What was probably more impactful for Chris was the amount of time that Patric spent with him, explained to him why it’s important to stretch, how to go about stretching, how to get yourself ready to play, how to get yourself ready for practice, not showing up 15 minutes before we practice to get taped, but get here 45 minutes or an hour [early], get out on the court. Patric has spent a lot of time helping him. That’s just the way Patric is as a kid. It probably has less to do with Chris Walker and much, much more to do with Patric. I think if any player was here with the situation that Chris Walker was in, Patric would do it.

To see Young’s transformation as a project with amazing physical tools to somebody who’s leading others during Florida’s potential national championship run is amazing. This is especially the case when you consider how many things Young himself needed to learn when he first came to Florida.

As his mother, Benita Young, recalls, Patric had to learn that he couldn’t just get by with size and strength any more. “He was big enough and good enough that nobody ever worked on the fine points,” Bennita said. “Billy Donovan told us they were going to have to rebuild his game. What? Rebuild? That’s hard. Hard for anyone to hear that you’re not good enough.”

Coming into Florida, Young was expected to dominate right off the bat. However, he learned the hard way after a freshman season in which he averaged just 3.4 PPG and 3.8 RPG. He experienced a big jump in numbers after averaging 10.2 PPG and 6.4 RPG in his sophomore campaign. However, the education was far from complete as Donovan constantly challenged him, telling Young that he needed to put small injuries out of his mind and keep playing hard. Donovan also had a closed-door meeting with Patric during his sophomore year to light a fire under him.

patric-young-florida-1“He fought Billy a lot,” Bennita said. “I talked and talked to Billy. I have great respect for Coach Donovan.” Patric’s mother also spoke about his decision to stay at Florida for four years by adding, “It was absolutely the right thing for him to spend this time in school. He needed to get a little stronger and put his armor on. He would have failed as a 19-year-old playing with 25- and 30-year-olds.”

With his four-year journey at Florida nearing an end, Young will hope to cap his career off with a title. He, along with fellow seniors Will Yeguete, Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin, need to win just two more games to make it happen. Of course, this won’t be easy as they’re facing a traditional powerhouse in Connecticut tonight.

Provided they win, they’ll play the victor of the Wisconsin, Kentucky game. The latter is loaded with young NBA talent while the Badgers feature a very experienced squad that’s capable of grinding out victories against the best. But whether Florida wins it all or not. Patric Young can be proud of all that he’s accomplished in his four years with the Gators.

2014 NBA Futures: Lakers still gunning for Title Next Year

la-lakers-titleLast season, the Los Angeles Lakers featured a loaded roster that seemed perfectly capable of winning the NBA Championship. But even with a team of Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Metta World Peace and Pau Gasol, the Lakers struggled to a seventh place Western Conference finish and were promptly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Now the Lakers enter the 2013-14 season having lost the battle to re-sign Howard and with Bryant rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. They also cut World Peace, who later signed with the New York Knicks. That leaves LA with the aging core of Gasol, Nash and Bryant – not exactly the chic pick to win it all next year.

Taking this into account, some people thought that the Lakers would be best served by bringing Kobe along slowly, clearing up cap space and waiting until the summer of 2014, when they could sign a big-time star like Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. By tanking next season, the Lakers could also pick up a high pick in the talent-laden 2014 NBA Draft.

la-lakers-title-1But none of this seems to be in the cards for LA as they’ll be entering October with the same mindset as always: compete for an NBA Championship.

Bryant is rehabbing with plans to be ready for the preseason, the team signed big man Chris Kaman to a one-year, $3.2 million deal, and Nash is also healing from his injuries in hopes of playing a full season. As if these aren’t signs that LA is preparing for another shot at the title, general manager Mitch Kupchak recently said so himself.

“You know that’s not our plan. Our plan was to bring back Dwight Howard and that would have sky-rocketed our payroll,” Kupchak said, when asked about mailing in next season. “That’s never a plan here with our fan base, to throw in the towel before the season begins. We always try to win, and that’s what we’re going to do this year.

“We have challenges. There’s no doubt. We don’t know when Kobe’s coming back, and we don’t know what level he’s going to come back at, although we’re optimistic. Everything’s good with Steve. Pau should be fine. We’ve added some athleticism. We’re hopefully putting ourselves in position where we can compete in every game.”

la-lakers-title-2No NBA general manager is going to flat-out admit that they hope to be non-competitive just to pick up a high lottery pick. But there’s sincerity in what Kupchak says because the Lakers fan base has come to expect winning, and throwing an entire season away just isn’t acceptable. Plus they have some stars left over in Bryant, Gasol and Nash, who would be pretty mad if they got another year older without another playoff run.

But do the Lakers truly have a shot at winning the NBA Championship? If you were making a 2014 NBA futures bet, odds are that you wouldn’t put your money on Kobe and company. But then again, with the chemistry disaster that we witnessed between Bryant, Howard and Gasol last year, perhaps playing without Howard can only improve the Lakers’ chances next season. And even if they have another difficult, injury-riddled season, well, at least Los Angeles still remains an attractive destination for big-name free agents next summer.

James, Anthony, John Wall, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Andrea Bargnani all hit the market in 2014. And while some of these players will re-sign with their team, it’s likely that LA could land at least one of them based on location and reputation alone.

Mike D’Antoni laughs at Dwight Howard’s Move to Houston

FILE: New York Knicks Head Coach D'Antoni ResignsIt’s safe to declare that Dwight Howard’s lone year in Los Angeles was a pretty big failure. Now this isn’t to say that Howard didn’t produce or do what the Lakers expected. He did after all average 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG and 2.4 BPG. But considering his own personal standards and the expectations placed on L.A. last year, failure is the only word that perfectly describes the result.

With the addition of Howard at center, some analysts expected the Lakers to win the 2013 NBA Championship. Instead, L.A. spent the entire year evoking predictions on if they’d make the postseason. Despite Kobe Bryant going down with a Achilles tendon tear, the Lakers did slide into the playoffs with a 45-37 record – good enough for the seventh seed. But they were quickly swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

To make matters worse, Howard was quite unhappy with his lack of low-post touches and head coach Mike D’Antoni’s fast-paced offense. In the end, it all added up to the 9-year veteran leaving for what he deems to be greener pastures in Houston.

The Rockets, who also finished with a 45-37 record, have immediately become a contender with Howard, James Harden and a strong supporting cast. But will everything be as rosy as Howard thinks?

dwight-howardNot according to D’Antoni, who laughed at where his former starting center went via free agency. The Los Angeles Daily News wrote the following about coach D’Antoni’s statement:

“The thing that cracks me up is Houston, they do the exact same thing,” D’Antoni said, laughing. “And so (Howard) is gonna go to Houston? OK, so did they talk about change there? Don’t tell me that it’s that different.”

D’Antoni wishes Howard well, but does think he needs to accept what makes him a special player rather than envision himself as something he isn’t yet and may never be.

“He’s a force and he can be really, really good and dominate the league,” D’Antoni said. “But it’s in an area that he’s not loving right now. He wants to dominate a different way, in the low post and all that. But he needs to get better there, and he will. But his greatness is in defense and being a physical force. I think he’d be better served if he embraces that.

dwight-howardIt appears as if D’Antoni has a point since Houston’s team isn’t exactly built to play a halfcourt game and run the offense through Howard. Instead, they have a number of guys who can run the floor like Harden, Chandler Parsons, Patrick Beverley, Francisco Garcia and Carlos Delfino.

Taking these players into account, Rockets head coach Kevin McHale is going to have his work cut out trying to succeed where D’Antoni failed. It’s not easy trying to transform a fast-break offense into one that can absorb Howard’s talents without wasting them.

But if Houston is truly to become the contender that they want to be next season, they’ll have to find a perfect blend. Perhaps the best place to start would be looking at clips of the Los Angeles Lakers from last year and doing the exact opposite of what they did.

Assuming you’ve got a vested interest in how the Rockets do next year, keep in mind that GTBets.eu has the Rockets at 12:1 odds of winning the 2014 NBA Championship. The Lakers, on the other hand, aren’t looking quite as good in the 2014 NBA futures category. Right now, they’re only being given 45:1 odds of winning the championship next season.

Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.

Houston Rockets want Dwight Howard, trying to trade Thomas Robinson

dwight-howardA few weeks ago, the Houston Rockets finished up a pretty solid season after making the playoffs and taking two games from the Western Conference’s number one seed, the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, there is definitely room for improvement following a first round playoff exit, and the Rockets are looking to spend big in the free agent market this summer. Their first choice appears to be Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard.

Apparently, Houston has been interested in Howard for quite some time and are trying to clear cap space for the seven-time NBA All-Star. Seeing as how he’ll command a maximum contract, the Rockets desperately want to have enough cap space by July’s free agency period. Their first step to making this happen involves attempting to unload top-five draft pick Thomas Robinson for anything they can get.

dwight-howardThe 6’10” power forward is expendable after a disappointing rookie season that was split between Sacramento and Houston. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski wrote about this with the following:

The Houston Rockets are determined to trade forward Thomas Robinson – the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA draft – to create salary-cap space for the pursuit of the Los Angeles Lakers’ free-agent superstar Dwight Howard, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The Rockets have made clear to multiple rival teams that they plan to accept the best offer to move Robinson and eliminate his $3.52 million salary for the 2013-14 season.

Without the salary of Robinson and others, the Rockets will have the space to offer Howard a maximum deal starting at approximately $20.5 million a season.

thomas-robinsonIt’s no surprise that Robinson is trade bait in this situation. After being selected fifth overall in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Kansas product has failed to live up to expectations. He played 51 games in his rookie season for Sacramento and averaged 4.8 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 0.4 BPG. Robinson was then traded to Houston, where he played the final 19 games of his rookie year and didn’t do much better after averaging 4.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 0.3 BPG.

Going back to Howard, the 6’11” rock-solid center would definitely give Houston the star power they need to enter the Western Conference’s upper echelon. The Rockets already feature shooting guard James Harden, who averaged 25.9 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.9 RPG and 1.82 SPG last season. They also have solid role players in Jeremy Lin (13.4 PPG, 6.1 APG), Chandler Parsons (15.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), Carlos Delfino (10.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG) and Omer Asik (10.1 PPG, 11.7 RPG).

Putting Dwight Howard in the middle of all this could make them a top 3-4 team next season. In 76 games for the Lakers, he averaged 17.1 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.4 BPG while shooting 57.8% from the field. And these numbers came despite playing alongside several other career All-Stars such as Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash.

Of course, picking Howard up is no guarantee because the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors are also hot on his trail. Plus they still need to find a taker for Robinson, which may not yield a lot in return.

There’s also the matter of Los Angeles still being able to sign Howard. This is a definite possibility since the Lakers will have plenty of talent again next year. On the other hand, Howard may not want to relive last season’s disaster, where L.A. was most one of the most disappointing teams in NBA history.

The free agency period starts on July 1st, so it’ll be interesting to see where Howard is leaning after this point.