NBA: Philadelphia and Houston in Mega Matchups


The 76ers and Rockets both made good on the proverbial "we're just happy for split" statement to open their respective NBA series'. Each did so in different, yet dramatic fashion and now they have opportunity to not only maintain homecourt advantage, but start placing themselves in position to possibly upset higher seeds in first round of playoff basketball. There is one big difference in the prospects for these clubs however. Philadelphia is a rather sizeable 3.5-point underdog, while the Rockets are heavy 5.5-point favorites. Get the latest info on these games on the TEAM STATISTICS & BETTING TRENDS pages before hitting the confirm button on your wagers.

Orlando at Philadelphia

The Sixers have covered both games in this series and they have proven unequivocally they can play with Orlando, in spite of closing the season so poorly. Philadelphia has shown if they double-down on Dwight Howard at just the right moment, they can limit his and Magic's effectiveness in the half-court offense. Philadelphia has played with enough defensive energy to limit the effectiveness of Orlando guards and wing players for long stretches.

While it is evident Orlando has the better team; the Sixers have more athleticism and have used that to their advantage even after making bone-headed plays. Philly is less than intimidating 24-17 and 18-20-1 ATS at home and they are 11-22 ATS versus good offensive teams scoring 99 or more points a game this season.

This is a young team that can be fueled by emotion, with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young leading the way. They've learned in the first two games the Magic are not focused enough about playing hard for four quarters and can be had with steadier play. Orlando does present a different challenge on the road, where they are 27-14 SU and ATS. The Magic were not as magical at the end of the season in the bright blue uniforms, with .500 record in last ten tries. has Philadelphia as 3.5-point home underdogs with a total of 191 and they are 10-3 ATS on the receiving end of 4.5 or fewer points at the Wachovia Center. Orlando is a slick 12-4 ATS in road games where the total is between 190 and 199.5 points this season, but just 4-9 ATS as favorites in last 13 contests.

One thing to watch for has been the bizarre behavior of Magic coach Stan Van Gundy's courtside manner. Van Gundy has been incredibly frustrated, visibly berating players, which isn't the brightest idea come playoff time. (Maybe their was more to Pat Riley taking over in Miami when they won the title than we heard) His actions and wild-eyed looks bring to mind the crazed looks of former Dallas coach Avery Johnson in the finals against the Heat, which ultimately became his demise.

If the 76ers can get Orlando off their game and play shoddy defense, they'll pull the upset and improve to 39-17 ATS versus teams who average seven or less steals a game. This contest will be on ESPN2 starting at 8:05 Eastern.

Portland at Houston

Houston governed the opener of the series and didn't play especially well in the second game, but still lost by only four, 107-103. Portland made a number of fine adjustments, both physically and mentally to even up series at one.

The Blazers doubled Yao Ming more frequently, fronting him with Joel Przybilla and having backside support from Greg Oden. Though Ming said he expected such tactics, he didn't respond well to it, with 11 points and eight rebounds, while getting into foul trouble.

It's a combination," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said of the problems getting Yao touches. "He has to find a way to get position better. He has to find a way to hold their people off. And we have to have patience to look for him. We ran some stuff and he came in the middle with a guy on his back and we chucked it up there." Houston has covered five of last six off a straight up defeat.

Portland also brought a more aggressive outlook and it especially paid off for its two best players. Guard Brandon Roy was almost unstoppable with 42 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 12 rebounds.

Now we know what we have to do," Aldridge said. "We have to be physical with these guys and play with confidence." The Blazers are 26-10 ATS after playing a game as a home favorite this season.

The chess match continues and it is Houston's turn to make move. The effort will certainly have to be increase from Game 2, with Ming, Shane Battier and Luis Scola playing more like they did on the first contest. The Rockets are 19-10 ATS off one or more losses this season, winning by average of 7.3 points per game. They have to return to keeping Roy in virtual square-shaped defensive box on the floor, always having defender in his face and Scola has to reassert aggressiveness against Aldridge.

Houston's a 5.5-point favorite, with total of 184.5. The Rockets have won 10 of last 11 (5-6 ATS) at Toyota Center against Portland and this could be defensive tussle. The Trailblazers are 12-4 UNDER after a combined score of 205 points or more and the Rockets are 11-3 UNDER after allowing 105 points or more this season. This Western Conference confrontation begins at 9:35 Eastern on ESPN.

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