Welcome to the Sunday, April 28 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for today’s first-round playoff matchups I feel has profit potential at DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel Sportsbook, 888 Sportsbook, and BetStars Sportsbook.
Depending on the circumstance, I’ll hone in on moneylines, point spreads, or projected totals. Sometimes I may even touch on multiple metrics. Then, I’ll take you on a fairly deep dive as to why.
Please note we’ll be referencing only legal, regulated sportsbook betting odds and totals here at PlayPicks. A “pick” is a wager that, as of the time of this writing, we feel confident recommending. A “lean” is a wager we favor over the other side. This play could end up on our card with the release of additional information.
Regular-season series results:
- Nov. 15: Rockets 107, Warriors 86 (Toyota Center)
- Jan. 3: Rockets 135, Warriors 134 (OT) (Oracle Arena)
- Feb. 23: Rockets 118, Warriors 112 (Oracle Arena)
- March 13: Warriors 106, Rockets 104 (Toyota Center)
4/28/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Golden State Warriors (57-25 reg. season, 4-2 postseason) vs. Houston Rockets (53-29 reg. season, 4-1 postseason)
DraftKings Sportsbook Odds: Warriors -5.5 (o/u: 224.5)
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: Warriors -6 (o/u: 225.5)
888 Sportsbook Odds: Warriors -5.5 (o/u: 224.5)
BetStars Sportsbook Odds: Warriors -5.5 (o/u: 224.5)
As the consensus favorites to meet in the Western Conference Finals once again and presumably the favorites over any Eastern Conference champion, both of these teams were guilty of sleep-walking through the regular season at times.
Therefore, we put no stock in the Warriors’ initial blowout loss in Houston and pay little heed to their 1-3 record against the Rockets this season.
In their final regular-season meeting, Golden State proved it has a defensive game plan that can contain James Harden. He was held to 29 points on 10-for-23 FG shooting in a narrow loss.
The Warriors were able to find enough offense for a 106-104 win on March 13 with Kevin Durant inactive. Now, Durant is in full-on playoff mode and just tied an NBA record with 38 points in the first half to almost single-handedly eliminate the Clippers.
While Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo will vie for MVP honors, KD is still the best postseason player in the league. He’s simply unguardable, and only Harden can match his ability to get to the FT line.
Durant “only” averaged 25 PPG on a modest 28.4% usage rate over three meetings with Houston this season. Yet he averaged 30.4 PPG over 7 games in the WCF last year. Durant came out extremely aggressive with a 37.3% usage rate in two games at Houston and was unleashed by Steve Kerr to the tune of a 36.4% usage rate over the final four games of the Clippers series.
Houston will try to contain Durant with pesky P.J. Tucker but has no real answers for the reigning Finals MVP. The Rockets also have no answers for Steph Curry with Chris Paul on the downswing of his career.
Curry went off for 35 points on 14-for-27 FG shooting with Paul inactive on Jan. 3 and torched the Rockets with a 31.8% usage rate in the three WCF games at Oracle last year. Steph shot 44.4% from downtown at Oracle this year, and his splits improved dramatically when he started using contact lenses late in the season.
All this said, both Curry (ankle) and Klay Thompson (ankle) are listed as questionable for Game 1. Curry’s injury seems to be more of a tweak, and Thompson’s is a bit more severe. Still, both players should suit up.
On the other side of the coin, the Rockets proved they can not only beat the Warriors with Harden going off (see: his absurd game-winner in 135-134 OT victory) but also beat the Dubs without Harden. Paul handed out 17 dimes, and the Rockets hit 16 threes to down Golden State, 118-112, on Feb. 23.
This is a very confident group that seems prepared to give the Warriors a run for their money once again.
Of course, the nature of this series is entirely dependent on the play of Harden, who has struggled in past postseasons. Namely, he was wildly erratic in the WCF last year. He scored 41 points in a Game 1 loss, shot 5-for-21 in Game 5, and committed a total of 20 turnovers over the final three games of the series.
Playing iso-ball and forcing rotations from the weak side simply doesn’t work against the Warriors the way it does against other teams. Andre Iguodala is one of the few individual defenders capable of handling Harden without help. Klay Thompson can start on Harden while Durant or Draymond Green can switch onto The Beard and bother him with their physicality.
The Warriors went 14-6 over the final two months of the season and flexed their defensive muscles by allowing 108.3 PPG during that span. They actually allowed fewer 3PTM (11.4) per game at home and held the Rockets to 34.6% shooting from deep.
Houston was only 22-19 and averaged 5.8 PPG fewer (111) on the road this season.
These Rockets are slightly more talented than last year’s roster, yet the loss of Trevor Ariza could loom large. Danuel House, Eric Gordon, and Kenneth Faried are good additions on the offensive end but aren’t renowned defenders by any means.
Ariza was Houston’s best means of guarding Durant. Without him, they’re at the mercy of the most unstoppable force in playoff basketball.
The Final Word
The Warriors (-5.5 on BetStarsNJ) are seeing very little action with over 75 percent of bets and money coming in on Houston’s side. The questionable statuses of Curry and Thompson may have something to do with that. Yet there’s a possibility these injuries are being played up by the Warriors. If the spread dips further on Sunday afternoon, pounce on the line.
The Warriors covered the spread in three of four wins last round and basically ran away with the game each time they were able to contain Lou Williams. Obviously shutting down Harden is a more difficult task, but the Dubs are capable of outscoring a one-man band even if Harden is able to get going.
Last year, the first three games of this series were decided by double digits (Warriors by 13, Rockets by 22, Warriors by 41) before the final four games turned into low-scoring slugfests. The first two games also went over the expected point total.
In the series opener, we like the Over (224.5 on DraftKings Sportsbook) given the fact that these teams ranked first and second in offensive rating and were both middle-of-the-pack in defensive rating.
The Warriors force teams to match their scoring pace and play more of a spread game now that DeMarcus Cousins (quad) is out of the picture. The lowest combined point total in their last series was 218, and the games at Oracle combined for 225, 266, and 250 points.
We lean toward parlaying the Warriors (-5.5) and the Under (224.5) if you believe the champs will shut down the contenders and pull away. But if you’re not comfortable predicting a blowout, take the Over.
The Pick: Over 224.5