Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Friday's Playoff Tips
Western Conference Semifinals – Warriors lead 2-0
No. 2 Golden State at No. 6 New Orleans (ESPN, 8:05 p.m. ET)
Stephen Curry returned Tuesday and despite not playing since mid-March, the All-Star scored 28 points as Golden State ran past New Orleans 121-116. The Warriors failed to cover as 11-point home favorites and that was somewhat of a "Bad Beat" as the Pelicans closed the game with a meaningless 10-2 run.
The Warriors finished 43-of-91 (47%) from the field in Game 2 and Curry helped that cause with an 8-of-15 effort off the bench. He was 5-of-10 from 3-point land and a perfect 7-of-7 from the stripe. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 29 points and Draymond Green barely missed his second triple-double of the series with 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans in both points (25) and rebounds (15) in Tuesday’s loss. The backcourt of Jrue Holiday (24 points) and Rajon Rondo (22 points, 12 assists) played much better in Game 2 after combining for just 20 points in the opener. However, the bench was outscored 44-13 albeit that disparity was helped with Curry’s production.
Entering this series, New Orleans was the hottest team in the league as it closed the regular season with five straight wins before completing a four-game sweep over Portland in the first round.
In the four wins over the Trail Blazers, AD went off for 33 points per game, 11.8 rebounds per game and 2.8 blocks. While he hasn’t been terrible in this series (23 PPG, 12.5 RPG), it’s apparent that New Orleans is going to need a “LeBron-like” performance from their best player to even compete against Golden State.
It’s not surprising at all that Golden State leads 2-0 and when you look at the recent head-to-head history, it’s hard to make a case for New Orleans to avoid the sweep. Including this series, Golden State has gone 28-4 SU and 18-13-1 ATS against the Pelicans dating back to 2011 and that includes a 6-0 record in the postseason. Even more impressive, the Warriors have gone 14-1 in their last 15 trips to “The Big Easy.”
In their two visits to New Orleans this season, the Warriors cruised to a pair of victories (125-115, 128-120) but they failed to cover the number in one of those games due to the high spreads (-9, -9). If you go back to the 2016 regular season, the wins by Golden State came by four and eight points yet the lines on those games ranged from 11 to 11 ½ points.
Fast forward to Friday and Golden State only opened as a 4 ½-point favorite for Game 3 and that number has held steady as of Thursday evening. I personally believe the number should be higher and when I think the line is too short, I usually lean to the ‘dog.
Keep in mind that I recently used that same approach on the Spurs as short home ‘dogs in Game 3 of their first round matchup against Golden State and the Warriors ran past them for the easy 110-97 win and cover. So using that technique obviously isn't guaranteed but I tend to avoid the "looks too easy" numbers.
Kevin Rogers of VegasInsider.com is a tad hesitant to pull the trigger on Friday’s matchup but he did provide us with angles to watch on home teams facing 2-0 playoff deficits in Game 3.
He explained, “In the 2017 postseason, home teams trailing 2-0 put together a 4-6 record both SU and ATS record in Game 3 while underdogs posted a dreadful 1-6 SU/ATS record with the only victory coming by the Grizzlies (+3 ½) over the Spurs. Fast-forward to this postseason, the numbers have improved for home squads trying to get back into a series. Teams returning home trying to slice a 2-0 deficit in half own a 3-1 both SU and ATS record as the Wizards, Bucks, and Timberwolves all won in the opening round in Game 3. “
In this year’s playoffs, home underdogs have gone 5-6 both straight up and against the spread and that includes Boston's win over Philadelphia last night. The odds have never come into play so if you’re leaning New Orleans, then a money-line (+160) wager could be a better look.
Another wager to watch on Friday could be on the Pelicans (+½) in the first-half but it appears that the oddsmakers are onto a popular betting trend that has gained steam via social media and forums, especially when you see the line. According to numbers from different sources and industry folks, teams down 0-2 in a playoff series while playing Game 3 at home have gone 31-4 ATS (88%) in the last four postseasons. It’s gone 3-1 in this year’s playoffs and Rogers noted the winners above.
Make a note that the Pelicans went 3-7 SU and 5-5 ATS as home underdogs this season and that includes a run of five consecutive setbacks entering this game. Golden State has gone 30-13 SU and 19-24 ATS on the road this season but when laying less than five points on the road, the Warriors were a pedestrian 5-4 both SU and ATS. That record includes their aforementioned win over San Antonio in this year’s playoffs.
VegasInsider.com NBA expert Tony Mejia analyzed the total for Game 3.
He said, "The total here opened at 230.5 and was bet up into the 232 range, which is the highest total of the postseason by a substantial margin. The first two games went over despite being the only ones placed in the 220s, so now that Curry is back and looks like he hasn’t missed a beat, the expectation is clearly that we’ll see a shootout since the Pelicans want to run at all costs and the Warriors welcome that challenge."
"New Orleans averaged 125 points in their two first-round home wins over the Trail Blazers and posted 122.5 in their last two must-wins at home in Games 78 and 82. The two regular-season meetings between these two at Smoothie King produced 248 and 240 points, respectively, although those featured DeMarcus Cousins. With Curry back, the Dubs no longer look bogged down like they did down the stretch and at times against San Antonio, but this number is massive. We’ll see whether it’s justified."
New Orleans has watched the ‘over’ go 29-14 at home and that includes two winning tickets in the first round versus Portland. Plus, eight of the last 10 in this series has leaned to the high side.
Golden State has a rare off night at San Antonio in Game 4 on the road and dropped a 103-90 decision. Prior to that setback, the Warriors posted triple digits in 11 straight away playoff games and they’re averaging 117.6 PPG in the last six before the anomaly versus the Spurs.
Bettors believing the Pelicans can win four of the next five against the Warriors would net a return of 21/1 odds (Bet $100 to win $2,100) while the risk on Golden State appears to be somewhat untouchable (-8500) for many of us.
The pair will meet again from Smoothie King Center on Sunday in Game 4 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
Western Conference Semifinals – Series tied 1-1
No. 1 Houston at No. 5 Utah (ESPN, 10:35 p.m. ET)
The late-night tip on Friday will feature another home ‘dog as Utah will look to surprise Houston for the second straight game. In what’s been a ‘chalky’ postseason, the Jazz pulled off the largest upset in this year’s edition with a 116-108 win over the Rockets as a 10 ½-point underdog. Utah was listed as high as plus-650 on the money-line.
After dropping a 110-96 decision in Game 1 and only scoring 38 points in the first-half of that loss, the Jazz came to play Wednesday and built a 64-55 break at halftime. Houston fired back with a 30-22 third quarter but they couldn’t buy a shot in the fourth quarter and was outscored 30-23 by Utah.
Shooting percentages proved to be the key factor as Utah shot well from the field (52%) plus they connected on 15-of-32 shots (47%) from 3-point land. Meanwhile, Houston finished 40 percent from the field and only made 27 percent (10-of-37) from distance.
Rockets All-Star guard James Harden led all scorers with 32 points but the man of the match was Utah forward Joe Ingles, who scored 27 points and most of that damage came with a 7-of-9 effort from 3-point land.
Looking at the numbers through the first two games, Utah (51%) has shot the ball better than Houston (42%) and the Rockets edge in 3-point shooting has been minimal (27-22) thus far. The big difference in this series for Utah has been free throw shooting and it will likely cost them a game, perhaps a cover as well. The Jazz are only shooting 60 percent from the stripe while Houston is at 80 percent and that has translated into a plus-13 edge (41-28) on the scoreboard.
For Game 3, Houston opened as a 3 ½-point road favorite over Utah and I think the line is fair considering the Rockets were -6 in their two first round matchups at Minnesota. They split those games, getting drilled by the Timberwolves 121-105 in Game 3 before rebounding with a 119-110 win in Game 4.
Keep in mind that Houston hasn’t been great on the road in the playoffs overall. Since Harden arrived in 2012, the team has gone 7-17 SU and 12-11-1 ATS as a visitor in the postseason.
The Jazz won all three of their games against Oklahoma City in the first round and they produced a 2-1 ATS mark in those victories. Prior to those wins, the Jazz were just 1-7 in their previous eight playoff encounters at home.
Rogers dug up another solid nugget for this matchup and it could have you looking at a let-down approach for Utah after its big win.
“Since 2013, five double-digit underdogs have won outright in the playoffs. The most recent team to pull off this accomplishment prior to Utah was Boston in Game 3 of last season’s Eastern Conference Finals as a 16-point ‘dog in a 111-108 upset of Cleveland,” said Rogers.
He added, “These squads own a 1-3 SU and 2-2 ATS mark over the last six seasons with the Grizzlies being the only team to follow up this massive upset with a win in the next game in the 2015 Western Conference semifinals against the Warriors. None of these teams won their series in this span as the last club to grab a victory as a double-digit underdog and advance to the next round was the 2007 Warriors, who knocked out the top-seeded Mavericks.”
The Rockets opened this series as 1/12 favorites and after the split, Houston has been pushed down to minus-600 while the takeback on Utah has dropped from +750 to +450.
Game 2 saw the ‘over’ (204 ½) cash and the total has been pushed up to 207 ½ for Game 3. While the teams played to a 96-85 slugfest that Houston won at Utah back on Feb. 28, the other encounters in this series have seen plenty of points and that’s helped the ‘over’ go 8-2 in the last 10 meetings between the pair.
Game 4 is set for Sunday night at 8:05 p.m. ET from Salt Lake City.
Chris David can be reached at [email protected]