NBA Playoff Picks — Warriors-Rockets: Going Back “Down Under”

Date | AuthorCharles Jay

Last Updated: 2019-05-04

There are a lot of story lines that exist in the NBA Western Conference semi-final series between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors, and we just got another one in Game 2, as James Harden, the leading scorer in the NBA, wound up with an eye injury that didn’t necessarily disable him, but is bothersome just the same. After being treated by a doctor, he says he is just fine to compete in Game 3, which will begin at 8:35 PM ET at the Toyota Center in Houston.

Harden got his points (29 of them, in fact), but the Rockets got beaten badly on the boards, as they gave up 18 offensive rebounds to Golden State, which is not a team that is known for that kind of thing. And the Warriors, who went small with their “Death Lineup,” starting Andre Iguodala as well as Draymond Green in the pivot, got the jump on Houston, moving to a nine-point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Things got pretty wild at the end, but the bottom line is that if Houston, which has been out-rebounded by an 83-67 margin, can’t win on Saturday night, they are pretty much dead in the water.

In the odds at BetAnySports upon which we will make our NBA playoff picks on this game, the Rockets are laying points:

Houston Rockets -3.5 (-104)
Golden State Warriors +3.5 (-106)

Over 221.5 points (-105)
Under 221.5 points (-105)

Based on what these teams put on the board in the first three quarters, they were projected for 209 points, which would have put us well under the total. But then there was something of an offensive explosion in the final stanza, with 67 total points, and the real killer was twelve points in the last 22 seconds.

That’s not enough to get us off another totals play here, because when it comes down to it, we may have lost, but we weren’t wrong.

We know, for example, that Houston was 26th in Pace in the NBA this season, and that against the Warriors, they have been more or less forced to slow down even more in the post-season. That’s not so unlike Mike D’Antoni, who was often chastised about slamming the brakes on his own Phoenix teams in the playoffs, after going 100 miles per hour in the regular season.

Golden State tends to make the Rockets take up more of the shot clock than usual; in last year’s playoffs, Houston played to an average of 8.5 fewer possessions against the Warriors than they had in the regular season.

And if you are leaning toward the under, you have to still like the trends – nine of the last eleven meetings have gone under the total, as have 15 of the last 19 post-season games between them. We definitely like the pace we saw in Game 2; it was 92.7, and to give you some perspective, the slowest teams in the NBA this season were the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers, both at 96.6 possessions per 48 minutes.

Public perception of these teams as offensive juggernauts (which we admit isn’t without some justification) is trumped by the fact that when it comes right down to it, they are very careful and deliberate against each other. And these offensive rebounding percentages in Game 2, which were both higher than the highest average in the NBA this season, and often produce easier points, were an outlier. Uh, as was 12 points in the last 22 seconds.

And the total rose by a point over Game 2’s figure.

Put us solidly on the “under,” once again.

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