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Game 5 - Warriors at Rockets
Editor’s note: Brian Edwards has been on fire with his NBA guaranteed plays, compiling a 30-13 record (69.8%, +16.07 Units!) since March 20. Don’t miss out on his next pay-if-it-wins-only selection for tonight’s Game 5, and you can also get signed up with Brian through the rest of the postseason at this discounted price.

I offer props to all who saw Tuesday’s result coming, because I sure as hell didn’t! In fact, I stated after Game 1 of the Western Conference finals that unless Steph Curry or Kevin Durant got injured, this series was a wrap.

Well, that’s why they play the games and why I should’ve known better to overreact. So, after blowouts galore to start the conference finals, the East finals are headed to a Game 6 while Houston and Golden State are knotted at 2-2 going back to Toyota Center for Thursday’s crucial Game 5 in H-Town.

As of early this morning, most betting shops had Golden State (68-28 straight up, 41-54-1 against the spread) installed as a one-point road underdog with a total of 220 and a few books have dropped to as low as 219.

Houston (75-21 SU, 49-46-1 ATS) captured a 95-92 win at Oracle Arena as an 8.5-point underdog in Tuesday’s Game 4, hooking up money-line supporters with a +360 return (paid $360 on $100 wagers). The 187 combined points fell 40 points ‘under’ the 227-point total.

Chris Paul, the perennial All-Star point guard who is making his debut in the conference finals, had been getting killed by the media after three subpar efforts to start the series. He suffered some sort of foot or ankle injury that had been bothering him, but he was playing through it. Nevertheless, the criticism at Paul was relentless.

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Paul relentlessly put it on Golden State for the next three. Truth be told, the Warriors could’ve put this game away early. They led 12-0 but could’ve been up 20 before Houston finally scored for the first time with 6:42 remaining in the opening stanza.

Trailing 29-18 going into the second quarter and 36-28 with 7:00 left, James Harden sparked a huge rally. Harden, who scored 24 of his 30 points in the first half, had plenty of help from Paul and Eric Gordon as the Rockets outscored Golden State 34-18 to take a 53-46 advantage into intermission.

Steve Kerr’s team answered in the third quarter by outscoring Houston 34-17 to go up 80-70 heading into the final stanza. Curry found his touch in the third, hitting three treys that were well defended from about 30-35 feet out. But Houston wasn’t going away – not on this night.

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A 14-0 run put the Rockets back in the lead. When D’Antoni’s team was up two at crunch time, Paul penetrated left off a high ball screen from Gordon, who stopped and got set at the 3-point line where he awaited a pass from Paul. CP3’s delivery was perfect and Gordon was in rhythm. He drained the long-distance attempt for a five-point cushion with 1:45 left.

Golden State took terrible shots in the fourth quarter. After trimming the deficit to two and getting the ball back with the shot clock off, the Warriors ended up with another terrible look. Durant was penetrating left with some room to operate, but he opted to throw to Thompson on the baseline as he was cutting to the corner. Thompson was well defended and after picking up his dribble, he couldn’t find anyone and was forced to hoist an awful shot that was way off.

The clock ran out but replay reviews showed Paul being fouled after grabbing the rebound with 0.5 ticks left. He missed the first free throw. Since the Warriors had a timeout left, Paul didn’t miss the second FT on purpose like he obviously would had they been out of TOs. He made the second, leaving Golden State with time to set up a play for a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Turns out, Curry got a clean look and simply missed it. Tie series. Golden State’s 16-game home winning streak in the playoffs? Gone. Homecourt? Belongs to Houston again.

Golden State should be ashamed of itself. The Warriors scored 12 points in the fourth quarter. Now they must win in at least one more game in Houston or there won’t be a fourth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals.

Harden and Paul had to be great in Game 4 and they were. Harden finished with 30 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocked shots. Paul produced 27 points, four assists, two boards and one steal. The Wake Forest product hit 10-of-20 field-goal attempts and 5-of-9 launches from 3-point land.

Gordon brought energy and was constantly on attack offensively. He contributed 14 points and buried all five free throw attempts. P.J. Tucker only scored four points but had a game-high 16 rebounds, two steals, one block and two assists without a turnover. Trevor Ariza hit 2-of-3 from downtown, including one at winning time off a sick bounce pass from Paul from the far baseline to the short corner. Ariza ditched a defender with a nice ball fake before burying the clutch 3-ball.

Curry had 28 points in the losing effort. The two-time MVP hit 6-of-13 from long distance, but he had more turnovers (three) than assists (two) and went 10-of-26 from the field. Durant had 27 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Draymond Green finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals and one block. Thompson had only 10 points and four boards.

With Andrew Iguodala in street clothes resting a knee injury, Nick Young was given 12:30 of playing time. He played horrible. He scored two points on 1-of-3 FGAs, but both of his 3-pointers were bricks. Young committed a horrible turnover that led to a bucket at the other end.

Iguodala’s absence in Game 4 was notable at both ends. The 2015 NBA Finals MVP is ‘questionable’ tonight with a knee injury sustained in a collision with Harden in Game 3. Iguodala was averaging 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game in 13 playoff games. The defensive specialist was hitting 47.9 percent of his FGAs and 35.5 percent of his treys.

Iguodala and Thompson are listed as ‘questionable’ tonight, but I wouldn’t read too much into Thompson’s status. He played through the pain of a strained knee in the first half, logging 43-plus minutes in Game 4. Kerr even said Wednesday, “Klay’s gonna be fine.”

D’Antoni’s club is 40-9 SU and 21-27-1 ATS at home this season. Meanwhile, Golden State is 32-15 SU and 21-26 ATS on the road this year.

Houston's ability to bounce back off a loss in the second-half of this season has been great and Golden State has been just as good. Chris David of VegasInsider.com believes it would be tough to go against the Warriors in Game 5 knowing how dominant they’ve been after a setback.

David explained, “If you throw out the team’s 7-10 record down the stretch when Curry was out and other players were rested, the Warriors went 13-1 in the regular season after a loss and they were a pedestrian 7-7 ATS in those games. The success in those games was directly attributed to the offense, where the club averaged 124.7 PPG. That effort helped the ‘over’ go 10-4.”

“Fast forward to this year’s playoffs and Golden State is 3-0 off a loss. The Warriors earned a 99-91 win over San Antonio in Game 5 of the first round without Curry and a 118-92 victory in Game 4 over New Orleans in the second round. In this series, Golden State blasted Houston 126-85 in Game 3 after dropping Game 2 on the road. Including those results, the Warriors are now 12-5 after a loss in the playoffs, which includes the infamous three straight losses to Cleveland in the ‘16 Finals,” added David.

The ‘under’ is 56-39-1 overall for the Rockets, 26-23 in their home outings. They’ve seen the ‘under’ go 8-6 in their playoff games, 4-4 at home.

The ‘under’ is 51-44-1 overall for Golden St., 26-21 in its road assignments. The ‘under’ is on a 6-1 run for the Warriors in their past seven games.

Sportsbook.ag has the Warriors as -200 favorites for its updated series price. Bettors can back Houston to make the Finals as a +170 underdog.

Tip-off for tonight’s Game 5 is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Boston jumped on Cleveland early in Wednesdays night’s pivotal Game 5 at TD Garden, racing out to a 32-19 lead in the first quarter on its way to a 96-83 win as a 1.5-point home favorite. The ‘under’ improved to 4-1 in the series, as the 179 combined points ducked ‘under’ the 204.5-point total. The Celtics are now 10-0 both SU and ATS at home this postseason.

-- Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists in last night’s win that put Boston one win away from the NBA Finals. Jaylen Brown added 17 points, while Al Horford finished with 15 points and 12 boards. Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris scored 13 points apiece and both hit 3-of-6 trifectas.

-- LeBron James had 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, but he committed six turnovers. Kevin Love was the only other Cleveland player in double figures with 14 points.

-- The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Cleveland as a seven-point home favorite for Friday’s Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena. William Hill sent the total out at 201.5 points. Several shops had the Celtics at +270 on the money line (risk $100 to win $270).

-- Sportsbook.ag’s updated series price for the ECFs: Celtics -190, Cavs +160.

-- Sportsbook.ag’s updated odds to win the NBA Finals: Golden State -180, Houston +225, Boston +1000 and Cleveland +1500 (15/1).

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.

  
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· Rogers: Tuesday's Tip Sheet
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· Akins: Hoop Trends - Tuesday
· YouWager.eu: Games to Watch - Week 5
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