Feb 27 NBA Action: San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets u212.5 (-105)
Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
February 27, 2016, 5:00PM PST
Both the Spurs and the Rockets rank among the top ten teams in the League by average points scored per game. However, we are betting the under when San Antonio takes to Houston this afternoon.
Foremost, our computer simulation work points to a combined final score in the 208-209 ballpark. Such an outcome would fit with these teams' demonstrated tendencies this season (Houston averages about 105 points per home contest, while San Antonio is usually good for about 104 away).
Stats too appear sympathetic to the UNDER. Consider, for instance, that the Spurs defense has given up fewer points than any team in the NBA. San Antonio's stinginess in the area of opposition's scoring owes to two important factors. First, Coach Popovich's crew is deeply committed to strong defensive play. The Spurs active roster boasts seven top-100 defensive players, as measured by ESPN's Defensive Real Plus Minus--more than any other lineup in the league (Chicago and the Warriors, other top-tier defenses, both feature only four individual stoppers of this caliber right now). San Antonio's dedication guarding the ball manifests in their #1 and #2 respective rankings in Opponents Effective Field Goal Percentage and Opponents True Shooting Percentage.
The other factor limiting the scoring ability to those who would challenge the Spurs is San Antonio's 25th ranking by average possessions per game. This stat points to the Spur's slow, deliberate offense that limits the opposition's time of possession and, by extension, scoring opportunities.
Further, despite the Rockets' overarching bias toward the OVER (Houston's aggregate O/U record is 35-23), betting trends likewise seem to at least somewhat endorse a play on the under from the current spot. Houston's O/U record, for instance, is 0-5 when cast as the home underdog, while San Antonio's is 12-15-1 as the road favorite. Also, both teams have shown a modest penchant for the under when competing following a night off.
On the other hand, the Rockets strong tendency to exceed scoring expectations following a win--especially when playing at Toyota Center--appears of some concern. Houston's O/U is 7-2 from this position, however, we note that most of those wins for the over accrued against teams that allow foes to score rather freely. For instance, only two of those seven overs came facing top-10 teams in opposition's scoring, while three materialized against teams ranked 24th or lower by this metric. Also, the two wins for the under against this backdrop both unfolded versus teams known for limiting opponents' scoring. And again, the Spurs are the best in the business by this measure.
Bottom line: We are comfortable siding with the under on the basis of 1) the output from our simulation routines, 2) the strength of the Spurs' defense, and 3) Houston's persistent inability to beat the UNDER as a home dog. We attribute the Rocket's tendency toward the over after a win largely to a lax commitment to scoring defense exhibited my many of their competitors fro mthis position. But as defense is San Antonio's bread-and-butter, we see the under as highly likely to prevail today.