G2 – Warriors at Rockets

Editor’s Note: Brian Edwards is on an 14-7 run (66.7%, +6.48 Units) in the NBA playoffs since April 30. Even better, Brian has cashed his guaranteed plays at a 12-2 clip (85.7%, +9.88 Units) since April 27! Don’t miss out on his next pay-if-it wins-only selection or you’ll regret it, and you can get signed up with Brian through the rest of the postseason at this discounted price!

Golden State (67-26 straight up, 40-52-1 against the spread) will be looking to take a commanding 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals when it faces Houston tonight in Game 2 at Toyota Center. As of early this morning, most betting shops had the Rockets installed as 1.5-point home favorites with a total of 125. Houston (73-20 SU, 47-45-1 ATS) was -125 on the money line, leaving the Warriors at +105 to win outright.

Steve Kerr’s team won the series opener Monday by capturing a 119-106 victory as a two-point underdog. The 225 combined points dipped ‘under’ the closing total of 225.5 points. However, the total was 224 on Sunday and early Monday morning. It moved to 224.5 late Monday morning, was adjusted to 225 a couple of hours before tip and then went to 225.5 in the last hour before the game started.

Therefore, the game’s final minutes were excruciating ones for gamblers on the total. When Andre Iguodala grabbed a defensive rebound with 2:18 remaining, Golden State was ahead 108-98 for 206 combined points. Chris Paul fouled him three seconds later and Iguodala, a 63.2 percent free-throw shooter during the regular season, made a pair at the charity stripe. Eight seconds later, James Harden was fouled shooting a 3-pointer.

Harden made 2-of-3 FTs to cut the deficit to 110-100 with 2:07 remaining. Steph Curry got free for a layup with 1:51 left, bringing the combined score to 212 points. After a Warriors’ stop, Kevin Durant hit a pair of FTs with 1:24 remaining. Paul answered with a layup seven ticks later and it was 114-102. Then with 1:10 left, Draymond Green was fouled and drained a pair at the stripe.

At this point, bettors on the ‘under’ are getting that really bad feeling in their stomachs, while those on the ‘over’ are believing they have life. Ten seconds later with 1:00 remaining, Paul scored on another layup to make it 116-104 for 220 combined points. The scoring temporarily subsided when Klay Thompson missed a trey and then Houston’s Eric Gordon was also off from downtown.

Durant gathered the rebound with 39.8 ticks left with a 12-point advantage. In the regular season, this scenario wouldn’t warrant fouling and the same can be said for a lot of postseason games as well. But Paul opted to foul Green with 32.1 seconds remaining. Green missed the first FT but made the second.

Next, Paul darted in for a layup, his third during what we can call ‘garbage time’ since the outcome was well in hand. Paul’s bucket came with 21.4 seconds left, trimming the deficit to 117-106. The shot clock was off and Houston was down 11 points. In other words, the game was over.

On the day the Supreme Court ruled that each state in America could join Nevada and make sports gambling legal, Harden decided he wouldn’t mind getting another possession to pad his stats that he deems so precious. Therefore, he fouled Iguodala with 12.1 ticks remaining and the combined scoring sitting at 223. Remember, for NBA standards, Iguodala is a poor FT shooter who has shot about 70 percent at the stripe just once in his last eight regular seasons.

So naturally, he made both to make the final score hit at 225 combined points, determining a win or loss for gamblers who had bet the total when it was at 224, 224.5 or 225 for nearly all of Monday.

Anyway, moving beyond the wild finish on the total, the Warriors turned a game tied at halftime into a lopsided victory thanks to Durant. The perennial All-Star scored a team-best 37 points, doing most of his work off the dribble before burying mid-range jumpers. He made 14-of-27 field-goal attempts, 3-of-6 attempts from 3-point land and all six of his FTAs.

Thompson drained 6-of-15 launches from long distance and finished with 28 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. Curry added 18 points, six rebounds, two steals, one block and eight assists compared to just one turnover. Iguodala was also in double figures with 11 points on 7-of-8 makes from the FT line. Green scored only five points, but he had his team’s best plus/minus (+19) and filled the box score with nine rebounds, two steals, a pair of blocked shots and nine assists compared to three turnovers.

Harden, who by the way did get another shot attempt to pad his stats after fouling Iguodala with 12.1 seconds left (but he missed, HA!), scored a game-high 41 points. He hit 14-of-24 FGAs, 5-of-9 shots from long distance and 8-of-10 FTAs. Harden also had seven assists and four rebounds.

Paul had 23 points but as previously noted, six came on layups when the game was already decided. Paul had a game-high 11 rebounds, but he dished out only three assists. Gordon scored 15 points, while Clint Capela finished with 12 points, six boards, two blocked shots and three assists without a turnover.

Houston had a 42-37 rebounding advantage, but Golden State had a 24/9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Meanwhile, the Rockets had 18 assists compared to 13 turnovers.

Golden State is 32-14 SU and 21-25 ATS in its road assignments this season. The Warriors have been road underdogs five times this year, compiling a 2-3 record both SU and ATS. However, we should note that Curry was ‘out’ with a knee injury in all three of those defeats, and one of them came in the regular-season finale when multiple starters were rested.

Mike D’Antoni’s squad is 39-9 SU and 20-27-1 ATS in its home games this year. Houston is 5-2 SU and 3-4 ATS at home in these playoffs, failing to cover the number in three straight outings at Toyota Center.

[...] has the updated series price, with the Warriors as -525 ‘chalk.’ This leaves the Rockets as +400 underdogs (risk $100 to win $400).

Chris David of VegasInsider.com was surprised that Houston opened as a favorite for Game 2 and while he believes the Warriors will the series, supporting the Rockets off a loss has been a good investment recently.

He said, “In the second-half of the season, Houston finished with a 35-6 record and they never suffered back-to-back losses. In the games following the six defeats in the regular season, the Rockets won their next game by an average of 12.8 PPG. That trend has carried over to this year’s playoffs in each of the first two series. A first round loss to Minnesota in Game 3 was followed up with a 19-point win and a six-point setback to Utah in Game 2 of the conference semifinals was answered with a 21-point victory.”

“Knowing Golden State has only lost three playoff games since Kevin Durant joined the team could have you hesitant to back Houston but make a note that all three setbacks for the Warriors did come on the road, two of them in this year’s postseason,” David added.

The ‘under’ is on an 8-3 run in the past 11 head-to-head meetings between these clubs. Also, the ‘under’ has cashed at a 6-1 clip in the last seven games of this rivalry that have been played at Houston. In four encounters this year, totals have been a wash. The ‘over’ hit in the first two regular-season meetings with the combined scores netting 243 and 238 points, but the ‘under’ has cashed in back-to-back games of this rivalry.

The ‘under’ is on a 4-0 run for the Warriors to improve to 49-43-1 overall. They’ve watched the ‘under’ cash at a 26-20 clip in their road assignments. The ‘under’ is 6-4-1 for Golden State in its 11 postseason games to date, going 4-1 in its road games.

The ‘under’ is 54-38-1 overall for the Rockets, 26-22 in their home outings. They’ve seen the ‘under’ go 4-2 in their past six contests.

Tip-off for tonight’s Game 2 on TNT is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. Eastern.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- Golden State is 5-1 ATS in its past six games played at Houston.

-- If I’m D’Antoni, I get Ryan Anderson some early minutes off the bench tonight. We’re talking about a guy who has averaged 16.1 PPG or better in four different regular seasons. Anderson has averaged in double figures in seven of his 10 seasons in The Association, and he knocked down 40.3 percent of his treys for the Rockets last year, 38.6 percent this year. Anderson is a guy that can get hot at any time and provide a needed offensive spark off the bench. He only played five minutes in Game 1 and went scoreless with merely one shot attempt.

-- Boston took a 2-0 series lead over Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals by winning a 107-94 decision in a pick ‘em affair last night at TD Garden. The 201 combined points dropped ‘under’ the closing 205.5-point total. Unlike the end of the WCF’s series opener, Boston and Cleveland both dribbled out the clock in their last two possessions. This was important because the Game 2 total was 203 on Monday and early yesterday morning. It moved up to 204 late Tuesday morning before getting to 205 and eventually 205.5 early in the evening.

-- The updated series price for the ECF: Boston -250, Cleveland +210 (risk $100 to win $210).

-- Al Horford dominated on both ends of the floor at crunch time last night. He finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocked shots and four assists without a turnover. Marcus Smart had Boston’s best plus-minus ratio (+21) and contributed 11 points, five rebounds, four steals and nine assists without a turnover. Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier scored 23 and 18 points, respectively.

-- LeBron James was absolutely sensational in the losing effort, producing 42 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds. It was the third triple-double in a 40-point effort for James in this year’s postseason. From 1964-2017 in the NBA Playoffs, there were only three 40-point triple doubles recorded. Those belonged to Jerry West, Charles Barkley and Russell Westbrook. Even with that effort from James, including a 19-point first quarter in which he buried five 3-pointers (channeling his inner Michael Jordan circa 1992 against the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals), the Celtics still won Game 2 by a double-digit margin.

-- The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened the Cavaliers as six-point home favorites for Saturday’s Game 3 back at Quicken Loans Center. The betting shop run by Jay Kornegay and his crew moved the Cavs to 6.5 in less than an hour late last night. The total was sent out at 205 points, while the Celtics are +245 on the money line (risk $100 to win $245).

-- J.R. Smith’s shove of Horford after he had elevated to the rim last night was some low-rent BS! In the playoffs four years ago, Horford was ejected from Game 3 of the East finals at Cleveland (with the Hawks leading late in the second quarter) when Matthew Dellavedova took his legs out while he was in mid-air. While in the air as he realized he was falling for a split second, Horford momentarily appeared poised to unleash a nice forearm on Dellavedova when he landed on him. Horford relented at the last second, however, but his large frame still came down hard on ‘Delly.’ Lest we forget, ‘Delly’ had dove hard at Kyle Korver’s knees in a loose-ball scramble in Game 2 of that series, injuring Korver and rendering him out for the rest of the season. Nevertheless, it was Horford – one of the league’s classiest players – who was ejected on that night. Yet Smith wasn’t ejected last night on a dirty play that could’ve easily injured Horford (and would’ve altered the projection of this series immensely). That, folks, makes ZERO sense.

-- Just in case you were wondering, the odds for Boston to sweep Cleveland going into the East finals were 35/1.

-- Phoenix won the 2018 NBA Draft lottery last night. The Suns will choose first, followed by Sacramento, Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas and Orlando.

-- While Toronto and Milwaukee are reportedly in hot pursuit of former Atlanta head coach and General Manager Mike Budenholzer, we thought it would be a good time to offer fans of the Raptors and Bucks this friendly reminder: After Atlanta GM Danny Ferry was fired and Budenholzer was serving as HC and GM of the Hawks, he made it a priority to ink Dwight Howard and Kent Bazemore for $140 million in long-term contracts three years ago before even entering into negotiations with franchise stalwart Al Horford, who had just become an unrestricted free agent and was more than willing to re-up with the team that drafted him third overall (presuming that was the organization’s offseason priority, as it SHOULD HAVE BEEN CLEARLY!). After the Hawks had missed the playoffs for eight consecutive seasons, Horford led them to the postseason nine years in a row. Sensing that he might not be a good fit with Howard (what team player that simply wants to win championships does fit in with Howard?!), Horford understandably took less money (but plenty of it, to be sure) to join the Celtics. And we all see how that’s going for Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens.

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