The Houston Rockets gave a valiant effort in game one, but ultimately could not slow down the MVP in Stephen Curry. James Harden chipped in a near-triple double, but Dwight Howard suffered a knee injury and Curry dropped 34 points. Suddenly the Rockets, who just overcame a 3-1 hole against the Clippers in round two, are quickly headed for another deficit. We know they can dig themselves out potentially, but going down 2-0 is never any good. We nailed game one of this series (41-20 in the playoffs) and aim to do the same for game two. Let’s take a closer look at tonight’s NBA contest and see if the Rockets have a real shot at evening this series up:

Houston Rockets (2) @ Golden State Warriors (1) on ESPN at 9:00 pm ET

Houston is in a spot in knows all too well – possibly having to try to find a way to win with an ailing Dwight Howard. That, or Howard could be out altogether tonight, which is something else the Rockets have grown accustomed to this year. That’s a main reason why James Harden was runner-up for MVP (and probably should have won), as he found a way to lead his Rockets to wins despite the odds being stacked against him.

Of course, the odds never looked like this.

Houston was a +10.5 underdog for game one and while that was admittedly a bit too high, they did fall to the Warriors at Oracle Arena, just as expected. The logic remains true: Golden State just doesn’t lose at home (three losses on their home floor all season) and they swept these very Rockets (4-0) during the regular season. But we all knew that going into last game. Houston stormed out to a strong first quarter, Stephen Curry and co. absorbed the blows and then took the game away in the second half.

To be frank, the Rockets blew it. Much like the Clippers did in their game six home loss that inevitably cost them the series, Houston had a golden opportunity to hit the Warriors hard right away, and now their backs are already firmly against the wall. Another loss tonight, and they’re in another one of those dreadful holes. The difference here is that only 16 teams have emerged from a 2-0 hole. Houston already defied the odds when they became just the ninth team ever to come back down 3-1 in a series, but tipping trends isn’t something they want to grow accustomed to – or at least putting themselves in those types of situations.

No one knows the future. Houston could go down 2-0 and then rip off four straight wins. It’s not impossible. But right now, going into game two, they aren’t the better team and one of their best players is either going to be out or at less than 100%. That’s a ton of extra pressure on a supporting cast that was absent for the first three games of their second round series and overall has been hit or miss. Add it all together, and game two isn’t nearly as close as game one. Golden State enters tonight as an -11 favorite and this time they just might have a shot at helping you win against the spread. If Howard is out, I like the Warriors both ATS and straight up. If he’s in, I’ll give the Rockets a shot ATS but I still like Golden State to go up 2-0 in this series (one that I’m not convinced doesn’t end in a sweep).

Pick: Warriors 112, Rockets 100

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