• All evidence suggests that there will be little defense played tonight when the Suns visit San Antonio.
By Zachary Cohen
December 11, 2018

Despite a tough Monday evening, Three and 3 remains 9-6 with its picks over its last five nights in action. Here's what's on tap for Tuesday.

1. Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets (-6.5)

8:00 pm ET

This season has been an absolute grind for the Rockets, who have gone from winning 65 games a year ago to finding themselves battling just to earn a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. One of Houston’s biggest problems is its defense, as the team is currently 26th in the league in defensive efficiency rating. Last year, the Rockets ranked seventh in that category. If Houston doesn’t figure things out on the defensive end, then things don’t have much of a chance of getting significantly better. And considering Trevor Ariza and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute aren’t walking through that door, the team very well may need to address its problems via trade.

Despite all of that, the Rockets still have the talent to beat good teams, and that is exactly what they will do tonight. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Blazers are 16-29 against the spread when failing to cover in four or five of its previous six games. When Portland struggles, the team really struggles. And while the Blazers beat the Rockets 104-85 in Houston when the teams met on October 30, it has to be noted that James Harden wasn’t playing in that game. And almost as importantly, Carmelo Anthony was. The now-banished Anthony went 2-for-12 from the field in that game, and the Blazers hunted him on defense whenever they could. They no longer will have that luxury, and the Rockets’ backcourt should be able to outplay Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum here. Meanwhile, Clint Capela should be an X-factor, as he is far too quick and athletic for Jusuf Nurkic to handle on either end of the floor.

Pick: Rockets -6.5

2. Phoenix Suns at San Antonio Spurs (217)

8:30 pm

Over the last three seasons, the over is 28-11 when the Suns are coming off a game in which they scored 115 points or more and 29-13 when the Spurs are playing at home after having won two of their previous three games. Meanwhile, Phoenix comes into this game after having given up at least 115 points in four of its last five games. In San Antonio's last 10 games, the average amount of points scored has been 233.5.

The reason both of these teams have been giving up so many points is exactly what you would expect: they are genuinely awful on defense. Phoenix and San Antonio come into this game ranked 28th and 29th in the league in defensive efficiency rating, respectively—only the Cleveland Cavaliers are worse. At least for San Antonio, the Spurs have an offense that gives them a chance of winning games. San Antonio has the league’s 10th-best offensive efficiency rating at 110.0 points per 100 possessions. The Spurs are going to present all types of trouble for the Suns, and Phoenix should score plenty as well. It's hard to envision the total in this game not clearing 220.

Pick: Over (217)

3. Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Clippers (+4.0)

10:30 pm

Since the start of the 2016-17 season, the Clippers are an impressive 16-12 against the spread (3-2 this year) when playing teams that have a winning percentage of at least 70%. Los Angeles is also 9-4 against the spread when facing teams that average at least 23 assists per game this season, and 5-2 against the spread against teams that shoot at least 46% from the field. Meanwhile, the Raptors are a lousy 1-5 ATS when facing teams that are outscoring their opponents by at least three points per game on the season, and they’re also just 9-11 against the spread when facing teams that average at least 106 points per game.

On top of those trends, Kyle Lowry’s struggles are making it difficult to believe that the Raptors are going to go into the Staples Center and beat a team as good as the Clippers tonight. Over the last four games, Lowry is just 4-of-28 from the field and 3-for-25 from three-point land. He is clearly dealing with some confidence issues, and it’s a big part of the reason the Raptors are just 1-3 in their last four. Until he busts out of this slump, it’s hard to imagine Toronto getting fully back on track—no matter how well Kawhi Leonard or Pascal Siakam are capable of playing. And for what it’s worth, going up against a backcourt that can employ Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Avery Bradley at any given time is not exactly a prime situation for rediscovering your rhythm.

Pick: Clippers (+4.0)

Overall Record: 62-52-3

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)