The December 23rd NBA free pick sure seems like it could be a blowout on paper when Houston visits Sacramento. The Rockets are just a -6 road favorite though and lost outright the last time they were supposed to dominate the Kings, falling 118-119 as -12 home favorites. Sacramento has dropped three straight though, any way they can rebound here?
Houston Avoids the ‘Look Ahead’ Game
The Rockets are part of the NBA Christmas extravaganza, but their matchup vs. Golden State loses pretty much 95% of its luster with all the injuries the last place Warriors have had this season. Therefore Houston can focus their attention on Sacramento on Monday, trying to avenge a 1 point home loss to the Kings 7 games ago.
The Rockets do come into the December 23rd NBA free pick hot, winners of three straight games. Russell Westbrook scored 40 points to lead a win over the Clippers on Thursday and James Harden backed that up with 47 in a victory over Phoenix on Saturday. The Rockets have averaged 130 points scored the last two. Therefore Sacramento’s newfound slow pace could be in trouble. The Kings have been held to 105 points or less in 5 of the last 6.
So how did Houston lose the 1st meeting with Sacramento this season? The Kings were on fire from 3-point range shooting 20-45. Harden was also just 3-10 from beyond the arc. The Sacramento #30 pace also drove the Rockets crazy as Houston had just 4 fast break points in that game. Does Mike D’Antoni have a strategy to combat the methodical, prodding Kings this time around?
Sacramento Near Full Strength, But Not Gelling Yet
The weird thing about the Kings upset of Houston on December 9th is that it came in the midst of both De’Aaron Fox and Malcolm Bagley III being out with injuries. What’s even weirder is that Sacramento has dropped 3 straight even as Fox and Bagley III have both returned to the floor.
There are signs that Fox is coming around as he went for 22 points on 8-13 shooting at Memphis on Saturday. Bagley III also had his best game in the 6 since he’s returned from a thumb injury, posting his first double-double (11/11) over that span in the last tilt. Another note about the Kings current three game losing streak is that all three defeats have come on the road. Sacramento is back home, even though they are just 6-5 at the Golden 1 Center.
One area where the Kings should be concerned ahead of Monday’s game is the shooting of their leading scorer Buddy Hield. The Sacramento shooting guard has gone just 11-46 the last three games, averaging less than 10 ppg. If the Kings are going to be in a shootout like the 230.5 total would suggest, Hield needs a big outing.
December 23rd NBA Free Pick
It’s possible that the Kings find their ‘come together’ moment on Monday night especially after returning home following 3 road losses. It’s also possible that the streaking duo of Harden and Westbrook as well as the inside presence of Clint Capela is way too much for Sacramento to handle. One of these scenarios seem more likely than the other.
Pick: Houston Rockets -6