NBA Basketball: Philadelphia Sixers at Houston Rockets - Rockets Favored
70% of Bets Placed on Houston -10.0 | Matchup | NBA Picks
If Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy needs to prove to his team how important defense is, the last five games should provide plenty of evidence.
The Rockets look to put together another strong defensive performance and win their third straight Monday night when they host the Philadelphia 76ers.
Houston (27-16) struggled to maintain its defensive intensity during a recent four-game stretch, and the result was a 1-3 record in those contests, including losses in the last three.
During the skid, the Rockets allowed an average of 110.0 points, a trend that didn't sit well with the defensive-minded Van Gundy.
"The last four games defensively, we're not willing to do what it takes to win," Van Gundy said following a 121-113 overtime loss to Denver on Jan. 20. "We got exactly what we deserved. They got what they deserved because they worked. And we got what we deserved because we didn't."
It has been a completely different story for the Rockets in the last two games. They have allowed only 77 points per game in wins over San Antonio and Portland, holding those teams to 39.3 percent (63-of-160) from the field.
"It's good to get back to playing that kind of defense," Houston's Shane Battier said. "We feel that, when we're in the flow defensively, we can get stops when necessary."
All-Star starter Tracy McGrady continued to power the Rockets offensively, scoring 17 of his 28 points in the decisive third quarter and finishing 11-of-18 from the field in Friday's 99-69 victory over the Trail Blazers.
Since he was held to 12 points at Denver on Jan. 12, McGrady is averaging 34.2 in his last five games.
Battier scored 15 points and Dikembe Mutombo grabbed 11 rebounds Friday for the Rockets, who improved to 12-0 when they hold an opponent under 80 points. Despite its recent slip, Houston still leads the NBA with 90.5 points per game allowed.
Philadelphia (14-31) used a balanced attack and an all-around performance from Andre Miller to win 104-89 at Atlanta on Saturday.
Miller had 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, and four teammates also scored in double figures as the Sixers improved to 3-1 in their last four.
Andre Iguodala led Philadelphia with 24 points, his fifth straight game with 20 or more, but said Miller was the star.
"He hit about four big shots down there," Iguodala said of a 10-0 fourth-quarter run. "He hit some big shots and created a spurt."
Samuel Dalembert had the game's most impressive line with 19 points, 10 boards, seven blocks and no fouls.
"That's pretty hard to do," 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks said.
Cheeks' team has actually improved since trading Allen Iverson, the face of the franchise for a decade, to the Nuggets on Dec. 19. The Sixers are 9-13 since the deal after going 5-18 before it.
The Rockets had won seven straight against the 76ers before that streak ended with a 106-101 home loss March 1. Philadelphia's top four scorers in that game were Iverson, Chris Webber, Kyle Korver and John Salmons. Only Korver is still with the team.
Houston has won 11 of 14 at home against Philadelphia.
By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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