Content provided by Associated Press. Picks by Covers.com staff.
Houston Rockets at Miami Heat (+3, 187)
Coming off his two best offensive performances of the season, Dwyane Wade will face a stiffer challenge Monday when his Miami Heat host the Rockets, the Western Conference's stingiest defensive team.
Miami (7-6) has been inconsistent during the early going, as it's yet to win three in a row and hasn't lost consecutive games. The one constant for the Heat has been Wade, who's averaging 28.9 points - second in the NBA behind Cleveland's LeBron James - and has turned in his best two efforts of the season in the last two games.
Wade had a season-high 40 points and 11 assists Wednesday in a 101-95 loss to Toronto. Then, despite experiencing flu-like symptoms Saturday morning, he helped Miami bounce back that night with 38 points as the Heat rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit for a 109-100 win over Indiana.
His best three-game total is 117 points from March 8-12, 2006, but the Rockets (9-5) would figure to make it difficult for Wade to break that mark. Houston allows 90.0 points per game - right behind league-best Boston at 89.9 - and has given up 87.4 ppg while going 5-2 in its last seven contests.
The Rockets kicked off a three-game road trip Friday with a 103-91 victory over Washington, overcoming a seven-point deficit after three quarters by outscoring the Wizards 33-14 in the final period. A night later in Orlando, the Magic scored 53 points in the first half, but Houston clamped down after halftime and Yao Ming finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds in a 100-95 win.
While Houston will have its hands full with Wade, who averaged 32.0 points against the Rockets last season, the Heat will have quite a challenge in dealing with Yao. He's averaging 24.8 points on 61.9 percent shooting in his last four games against Miami.
The Rockets hope Tracy McGrady is starting to pick it up offensively. McGrady failed to score in double figures in four of six games earlier this month - something that happened only six times last season - but he's averaging 17.7 points in his last three contests.
New Orleans Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers (+6, 187)
The Clippers hope Zach Randolph can provide a spark in his debut on Monday night in Los Angeles, something Chris Paul has been doing all season for the Hornets.
Off to a slow start and already in last place in the Pacific Division, the Clippers (2-11) acquired Randolph and Mardy Collins on Friday from the New York Knicks in exchange for Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas. The pair were inactive Saturday in Los Angeles' 112-95 loss to New Jersey, but the arrival of Randolph - third in the NBA at 12.5 rebounds per game - should give the Clippers a much-needed boost on the boards, where they have been outrebounded by 5.2 per game.
Baron Davis will try to follow up his 30-point, 10-assist game against New Jersey with another big outing against the Hornets. Davis is averaging 24.5 points and 8.5 assists in his last six games versus New Orleans.
The Hornets (7-5) begin a three-game road trip buoyed by another stellar effort from Paul, who posted his first triple-double of the season and fifth of his career with 29 points, 16 assists and 10 rebounds as New Orleans completed a home-and-home sweep of the Oklahoma City Thunder with 109-97 win on Saturday.
"It was his best game of the year," Hornets coach Byron Scott said of Paul, who leads the NBA in assists (11.8) and steals (3.1).
New Orleans, which is shooting 46.5 percent from the field - fifth in the NBA - made a season-best 54.1 percent on Saturday and has hit 51.7 percent of its shots the past three games. That accuracy could continue against the Clippers, who have allowed three opponents to shoot better than 50 percent during their current 1-5 stretch.
Pick: New Orleans