Instead of harping on the fact that the Clippers again failed miserably in the NBA Playoffs, let’s talk more about how the Rockets won three straight to close out a series when down 3-1.
The more sensational story following Houston’s 113-100 win over the Clippers on Sunday was “Lob city” turning into “Sob city,” but I think it’s more like Kevin McHale out coached Doc Rivers and James Harden proved he was the best player on the court when it counted.
On Tuesday it is the Rockets who will be playing at Golden State where the Warriors are 10-point favorites with a total set at a spicy 219.5. The South Point sportsbook opened the Warriors a -1000 favorite (Clippers +650) and were bet down to -850 on Monday morning. MGM Resorts’ books have the series set at -1100/+700.
During the regular season, the Warriors absolutely crushed the Rockets, winning by at least 11 points in every game and by an average of 15.8. Golden State has also covered the spread in their past five meetings with Houston. Tuesday’s game, however, marks the highest spread, which is kind of odd.
Two of those meetings Dwight Howard didn’t play, and McHale as a coach has elevated his game big time. He’s usually a coach that doesn’t get recognized for his ability, but inserting Josh Smith into the starting lineup for the past three games appears to have been the checkmate move of the playoffs.
Leaving James Harden on the bench during the fourth quarter of Game 6 when the team erased a massive deficit to get their series defining win was masterful.
A case can be made for the Warriors as 5 points better in the power ratings over the Rockets, and then you can give them 3.5 for home court. So in reality a high number on this game would be -8.5, but now you have to factor in the luxury tax.
The Warriors have been a popular team with bettors all season and will continue to be for Tuesday’s game. Even though the Rockets have made the conference finals and are playing at their best, the trick is trying to see how many points it’ll take to get bettors to like the Rockets.
In this spot, +8.5 isn’t it, but +10 will definitely get some nibbles with big money, and -10 will also still get the majority of play – especially on parlays. Everyone will see that 4-0 straight-up and ATS record against Houston and also the fact the Rockets have actually been outscored during the playoffs; they’ll have more than enough ammo to feel good about riding with the Warriors throughout the series.
The Warriors found themselves in a battle with Memphis, coming back from a 2-1 series deficit. They not only won the next three, but also covered the spread. They’ve covered the number in five of their past seven games after being on a 0-6 ATS run.
The Pelicans were tough on them and Memphis was very physical. The one common denominator between both those teams was good defense and probably the best in the NBA with Memphis. Six of their past seven games have stayed UNDER the total.
To beat the Warriors, you have to run down the shot clock, get them out of their rhythm and pound their weakness inside.
The Rockets don’t play any defense, love to run and shoot fast, which has seen eight of their past 10 games fly OVER the total. The first six games against the Clippers all went OVER and the adjustment on the number went from 212 to 220 by Game 6. Finally, the high number of 220 in Game 7 paid off for UNDER bettors who were playing value.
This series should be high flying as both teams will be allowed to play at their desired pace, however Golden State is a very good defensive squad. They allowed opponents to shoot 42.5 percent from the field during the regular season, which was the best in the NBA. They’re allowing 42.9 percent during the playoffs and their average score has been 102.2-94.2 compared to the Rockets at 111.4-111.5.
I’ll take the +10 in Game 1 with Houston just because of their momentum while the Warriors have had more time off. This could be a spot where Houston has a huge letdown after such an emotional series-clinching win, but I can’t pass up on what I think is value here.
If Houston does play well enough to cover the number, they should also go OVER the total because they’re hitting their shots and James Harden is stopping the clock with his 15-for-15 free-throws. It’s almost a two-fer play, very correlated.
On Wednesday the Cavaliers play at Atlanta in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals where the Hawks are 1-point favorites with a total set at 197. Despite the Atlanta home court advantage, Kyrie Irving being banged up and no Kevin Love, it’s Cleveland who is the -220 favorite (Hawks +180) at the MGM books.
While the West series has a battle between the MVP Stephen Curry and runner-up Harden where you may question who the best player on the court is, there is absolutely no doubt in the East. LeBron James has put this Cavs squad on his shoulders and has said “follow me” to his teammates, and they are.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have looked very ordinary and nothing like the team that reeled off 15 straight covers in January. Kyle Korver has been well below his standards of marksmanship from beyond the arc and as a team they have shot only 43 percent from the field during the playoffs. Cleveland’s shooting the same, but had tougher defenses.
LeBron can basically do what he wants in this series, but from value standpoint, taking +180 with the Hawks to win the series is the play. With Cleveland’s injury issues, these two teams are more even than the price suggests. I’ll also look to play UNDER the total in most of the games beginning with Game 1.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].