Western Conference Outlook
May 13, 2018
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Warriors-Rockets Is Everything We Deserve
The showdown we have all bee dying for is finally just around the corner and I can not wait. Houston. Golden State. Three MVP’s and Chris Paul finally getting to the show. Thank you, basketball gods. This is so much more than we deserve.
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear about the regular season record: you should not care. Should it matter that Houston went 2-1 SU and ATS this year against the Warriors? Nope! Golden State is a completely different animal in the playoffs and their casual evisceration of the Spurs and Pelicans shows just how deadly they are.
Of course, you can make equal remarks about how well groomed and impervious Houston has looked while dispatching the outwitted Timberwolves and Rubio-less Utah Jazz (yes, I think it would’ve been a bit of a closer series had he played).
To match the unquestionable excitement that the NBA betting public will have for this series, the oddsmakers at BetOnline.ag have unfurled a whole host of props on the series you can check out here.
You can even bet on Golden State having the edge at 2-1 SU after three games at +125 or Houston holding a three win advantage if you’d like. Basically, the oddsmakers have gone to the ends of the earth to craft every possible prop you could want to bet in the conference finals.
What’s most telling about the odds is how the series outcome has been graded. Basically, the oddsmakers expect this series to be a dogfight and if Houston has the best chance of winning it’s by pushing the Warriors to a Game 7. Check out the full NBA futures odds on this series below:
Western Conference Series Exact Game Outcome Odds - per BetOnline.ag
Golden State Win in 7 +400
Houston Win in 7 +500
Houston Win in 6 +700
Golden State Win in 5 +600
Houston Win in 5 +800
Golden State Sweep +900
Houston Sweep +1600
It’s obvious that the Warriors deserve to be favored. They’re the defending champions and by far the best team in the NBA. Houston isn’t far behind and you can whirl up a bevy of advanced metrics and we can get super nerdy about it. But the fact is that the Warriors have done it before and this concoction of the Rockets hasn’t.
Which odds you take is entirely up to you, but Golden State in 6 makes the most sense given the x-factor they have in this series. Listen, offence is going to be the spotlight of this series and there are so many narratives we can focus on here. From Harden’s MVP season, Durant and Curry’s tour de force, Chris Paul playing his best career playoffs and Draymond Green making life hell for Houston’s front court…the one key is actually a little more subtle.
Klay Thompson’s defence is the difference between this series going Houston’s way or not. The sharpshooting two guard is lauded for his incredible, one-on-one defence and this particular matchup is salivating from a fan perspective. Thompson could be used to slow down the masterful creative brilliance of Chris Paul…or he could try and slow down James Harden, whom he played against in high school.
NBA Western Conference Schedule
Game 1 – Golden State at Houston (Mon, 5/14)
Game 2 – Golden State at Houston (Wed, 5/16)
Game 3 – Houston at Golden State (Sun, 5/20)
Game 4 – Houston at Golden State (Tues, 5/22)
Game 5 – Golden State at Houston (Thu, 5/24)
Game 6 – Houston at Golden State (Sat, 5/26)
Game 7 – Golden State at Houston (Mon, 5/28)
Slowing down Harden may not be possible (read: it isn’t) but that’s essentially counterpunched by the incredible scoring talents of Durant and Curry. Thompson is the key to CP3 or Harden having less of an impact than they usually do, and how the Warriors dispatch their primary defender is going to be essential in gauging how effective Golden State can be at either pacing the Rockets, or mitigating the damage they do on the scoreboard.
On paper, the defence of the Rockets is actually better overall. They ranked 6th in the regular season with just 103.9 points allowed. They were also the 4th best rebounding team in the league.
Flipping things over is harder because the Warriors seemed completely disinterested at being anything remotely consistent, as if they were just waiting for the playoffs to get here. But I will put stock in the way Golden State properly paced themselves against both San Antonio and New Orleans. In short, they did enough to win games and new when to cut bait. No wasted energy. Love it.
The return of Curry to instant playoff form is annoyingly frightening. He was dropping bombs out of the sky in the closing efforts against the Pelicans. As fun as it is to marvel at Curry, Durant, Paul and Harden, the rest of the team is what really makes it work.
And ultimately, my problem is that the Rockets are a two-man show with some great complimentary pieces while the Warriors have morphed in to the ideal, championship team (emphasis on “team”).
Doing this in a rundown style for the Rockets is pretty quick. PJ Tucker is a lesser version of Draymond Green, and a much lesser version at that. Trevor Ariza is about to be buried. Clint Capela has been a weapon, but will have to face off against Javale McGree and you’re going to have a lot of trouble convincing me that either is better than the other.
Eric Gordon remains the biggest weapon for Houston, and needs to capitalize on the Warriors resting their death lineup. Which again raises the question – can he do it? More importantly, can the Rockets rise to the occasion?
Until there’s hardline evidence that Houston has the mental fortitude to withstand the Warriors in this setting, I can’t back them. The oddsmakers are even sheepish, inserting Houston as a -2.5 favorite in Game 1, and you’re damned straight I’m backing the home team.
Put it a different way – we have mountains of evidence to suggest that these Warriors are one of the greatest NBA teams of all time already. The only thing we know about Houston as a franchise, and the players that compose this team, is that they flake out in the moment. Houston has been incredible this season and through the playoffs. It’s not too far fetched to suggest that there’s something different. But they need to take a chunk out of the champs before we believe that they have teeth.
Western Conference Series Prediction: Golden State in 6 (+300)
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