Examining the Remaining NBA Schedule: Can the Rockets Get to 56 Wins?

I've often said that betting on NBA games each night is financial suicide the equivalent of day trading, with its volatility and roller coaster-style emotion, while season bets are more like gradual financial suicide investing, where the ebb and flow is a season-long thing.

So with anywhere from 20 to 25 games remaining for all of the teams in the league, it's time to check in on our portfolio, especially because YOUR Houston Rockets are one of my five highly recommended bets (dare I say "BEST Bets"?) going into the season.

Kevin McHale's bunch need to get to 56 wins for us to cash the ticket. Can they get there? Let's take a look....

First, let's look at the other four, shall we?


Since last season's seventh and eighth seeded teams in the Eastern Conference (Boston and Philly) are virtual locks to nail down high lottery picks, they have to be replaced by someone, right? (Unfortunately, that answer is "yes.") The most likely candidates, in alphabetical order:

1. Cleveland (39.5): Betting on them to go over the total is to bet on Andrew Bynum's health, and...well, didn't we just get done talking about Philadelphia? Yeah, I thought so.

2. Detroit (40.5): Just a really weird team -- Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings...it feels like a fantasy team for a guy who showed up like an hour late for the draft so you let him take the highest four guys on the board at that time to make up for it.

3. Milwaukee (29.5): They're going the other way.

4. Toronto (37.5): They could either be in the mix, or they could be dumping Demar DeRozan, Rudy Gay and Kyle Lowry at the trade deadline. Too risky.

5. Which brings us to...the WIZ! Nobody beats the WIZ! Well, actually, a lot of people do, but as long as they only do it 41 times, we win this bet, kids! And I think with a full season of John Wall and Bradley Beal together, they're ready to become a playoff team. The pickup of Marcin Gortat last week will help, too.

CURRENT RECORD: 30-28 ON PACE FOR: 42-40 CONFIDENCE LEVEL (1 to 10): 7.28 The Wizards have won five in a row, are playing their best basketball of the season, and have 13 of their remaining 24 games against teams that would be in the lottery if the season ended today. Home court in the first round of the playoffs is a very real possibility. I feel pretty good about this one. Actually, the only thing I feel bad about on this entry is that I didn't fire on the other four teams I mentioned in the post before the season (Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto). Turns out I had a decent vibe on all of them.


In the end, the whole league's record is .500. Someone has to win and someone has to lose every game. It's a zero sum game, and if you believe that the Rockets will be improved (which I do) and that the Warriors will win more games than last regular season (which I also do), then it has to come at someone's expense in the upper echelon, and that team is Denver. Now, some of that is baked into their number already at an "8 seed waiting to happen" total of 45. Still, this team has had a "pending collapse" level of doom swirling around it from about the time Steph Curry turned it into his bitch in the playoffs last season. And now in the off-season they lose Andre Iguodala, have Danilo Gallinari rehabbing an ACL injury and break in a first-time head coach in Brian Shaw, who now has to forfeit his long-held title of "most touted assistant coach to get passed over for jobs every season."

CURRENT RECORD: 25-32 ON PACE FOR: 36-46 CONFIDENCE LEVEL (1 to 10): 9.86 The Nuggets lost by 23 at home last night to the Brooklyn Nets and have essentially given up on the season. For a guy that every former player with a microphone was openly campaigning to get a head coaching job, Brian Shaw has been less than impressive.

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS UNDER 40.5 WHAT I SAID BEFORE THE SEASON: So if Denver falls out of the playoff race in the West, they have to be backfilled by

Somebody, right? Well, yes, I suppose. So that somebody will be the newly named New Orleans Pelicans, right? Well, wrong. And it has nothing to do with the new nickname. As I've said many times before, pelicans are underrated badasses in the animal kingdom. Just watch this pelican go to work offensively and eat up this pigeon:

And that sick offensive game is kind of a metaphor for the basketball Pelicans, who are a pretty stout bunch offensively (Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson), but, aside from Anthony Davis, play no real defense. In other words, this team can go around eating all the pigeons it wants, but as soon as they come up against creatures who can punch back (and their division is full of them), then they're really just fat, feathered bullies who can't fly or defend themselves.

CURRENT RECORD: 23-34 ON PACE FOR: 33-49 CONFIDENCE LEVEL (1 to 10): 9.95 Basically, I need eight more losses from a team that still has road games at Phoenix and the Clippers this weekend, Miami and Portland games at home, and a final four games that goes like this: at OKC, at Houston, vs OKC, vs Houston. Clearly, the league doesn't own the Pelicans anymore.


God bless Sam Hinkie, Daryl Morey disciple, who is tasked with having to revive this dead, cold corpse of a franchise, still bullet-riddled from trading for Andrew Bynum last season. Fortunately for Hinkie, ownership in Philly is less concerned about winning night to night than Les Alexander was here. Hinkie will be allowed to tank and tank royally this season in an effort to land Andrew Wiggins in next June's draft. If landing a franchise player were like, say, a trigonometry test, Hinkie is at least being allowed to use a calculator. In Houston, Morey had to figure all the shit out in his head.

CURRENT RECORD: 15-43 ON PACE FOR: 21-61 CONFIDENCE LEVEL (1 to 10): 3.14 Considering that I need the Sixers to go 1-23 the rest of the way, my confidence number is probably higher than it should be. Just consider, though, that the Sixers have:

1. Lost 12 games in a row by an average margin of 19.5 points per game.

2. Traded arguably their two best players at the trade deadline for some magic beans, four jockstraps, a drunk partridge on meth, and Danny Granger (who they promptly bought out of his deal). The partridge now starts at power forward.

3. Made no secret that they are tanking for the No. 1 overall pick.

4. Have just lost back-to-back games at home to Milwaukee and Orlando, the other two worst teams in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers weren't favored in either game, so safe to assume that they won't be favored in any games the rest of the season.

In short, if any team is set up to go 1-23 the rest of the way, ladies and gentlemen, THE 2013-2014 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS!!!


YES, your Houston Rockets! When I look at taking "OVER" on teams that are forecast in that 55-win-and-above range, the first thing I look for is effort, and I think these Rockets will give great effort virtually every night out. Second, I love the edge defensively that having Dwight Howard and Omer Asik on the roster gives them (at least until they flip Asik for a stretch four). This team has the ability to trot out a top five defensive center every minute of the game. That's huge. This team should also be a delight to watch offensively in the pick and roll. Basically, the Rockets are like a pelican but with sharp claws, cheetah-like speed and a jet pack strapped to its back.

CURRENT RECORD: 39-19 ON PACE FOR: 55-27 CONFIDENCE LEVEL (1 to 10): 4.55 Daaaaamn, we are right there. This recent stretch of basketball (18-6 in 2014 calendar year, recent eight-game winning streak) has really helped the numbers. Now comes the tricky part of the schedule, specifically a seven-game stretch starting next Tuesday that includes two games against the Heat (home and away), home games with Indiana and Portland, and road games with the Thunder and Bulls. 4-3 would be fine, 5-2 would be a huge win, because the schedule the rest of the way after that is accommodating. Only seven mulligans left to cash this ticket.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.

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