Welcome to the Friday, May 10 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for today’s Golden State-Houston playoff matchup 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)
Playoff series results:
- April 28: Warriors 104, Rockets 100 (Oracle Arena)
- April 30: Warriors 115, Rockets 109 (Oracle Arena)
- May 4: Rockets 126, Warriors 121 (OT) (Toyota Center)
- May 6: Rockets 112, Warriors 108 (Toyota Center)
- May 8: Warriors 104, Rockets 99 (Oracle Arena)
5/10/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Golden State Warriors (57-25 reg. season, 7-4 postseason) vs. Houston Rockets (53-29 reg. season, 6-4 postseason)
Faced with rare adversity, the Warriors held on for a narrow victory on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 series lead. Yet this thing is far from over with Kevin Durant (strained calf) ruled out for Game 6 and possibly Game 7 (if necessary)
It is now worth considering Houston (+210 on FanDuel Sportsbook) on the series line where you can get good value.
The Rockets threatened to run away in Game 3 and Game 4, but Durant almost single-handedly brought the Warriors back in the second halves of those games. Even with Durant on the floor in Game 6, the Rockets were able to erase a 20-point deficit and challenge the Dubs down the stretch.
Durant’s absence may be overvalued but can’t be overlooked considering how difficult it has been for the Rockets to contain him.
Houston’s defensive game plan had been to guard Durant one-on-one and hope for the best. The Rockets have thus been able to send multiple defenders at Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, holding the Splash Brothers to combined 20-for-72 (.278) shooting from downtown over the first four games of the series.
The fact that Curry awoke late in Game 5 is directly correlated to Durant’s injury. Thompson found his rhythm early in Wednesday’s contest but then went cold. While both guards remain streaky, Curry is likely to thrive with Durant out.
Curry led the Warriors with a whopping 39.3% usage rate (10.3% increase) and averaged 0.30 more FPs per minute when Durant and DeMarcus Cousins (quad) were off the floor this year. Thompson fell right behind him with a 35.9% usage rate (10.6% increase) under those circumstances.
Draymond Green surprisingly averaged fewer FPs per minute with Durant/Cousins off the floor, but he’s a virtual lock for increased production tonight. Take a look at prop bets on Green, Curry, and Andre Iguodala as the Warriors scramble to replace Durant’s invaluable minutes.
The Rockets pass the eye test as the better overall team in this series. They were somewhat unlucky to lose both of the first two games at Oracle Arena (but still covered) and nearly ran away with two home wins at Toyota Center. Houston proved its composure by erasing that 20-point deficit at Oracle on Wednesday and likely only came up short down the stretch due to fatigue.
The Rockets were able to will their way back into the game with Eric Gordon missing his first seven attempts from the field and Chris Paul posting his worst shooting line (3-for-14, 0-for-6 from 3) of his postseason career. Austin Rivers did not provide the same lift off the bench as he had in Houston, and the Rockets shot a combined 12-for-41 from downtown for their worst mark of the series.
Yet they were still right in the game thanks to James Harden putting relentless pressure on a backsliding Warriors defense. Golden State has coughed up 119 PPG while allowing the Rockets to shoot 42.7% (35-for-82) from downtown over the last two games in Houston. The Rockets also own a +27 rebounding edge (105-78) in those games, and the Warriors shot a rough 33% (22-for-66) from deep at Toyota Center.
Durant put up a 15.4% defensive rebounding rate in these playoffs. His absence could be felt even more for his perimeter defense. When both teams go small, Steve Kerr likes to put Durant on Harden to deny his stepback threes. Now, Thompson will likely be tasked with guarding Harden in those situations. That could drain his energy and limit his effectiveness on offense.
The Warriors will almost be forced to go “big” with Kevon Looney starting in place of Durant. Jordan Bell should see some minutes off the bench with Alfonzo McKinnie and Shaun Livingston replacing Durant’s minutes on the wing.
Jonas Jerebko can help the Warriors offensively, but he is truly a liability on defense. The Rockets should exploit Golden State in pick-and-roll sets with Harden and Clint Capela when the Warriors go with bigger lineups.
We also have to mention P.J. Tucker, a relentless grinder who is arguably the Rockets second-most important player. Tucker owns an excellent 14.96% total rebounding rate and a 146 offensive rating over the past four games. His contributions go beyond the stat sheet with excellent defensive prowess that can now be applied in a supporting role with Durant unavailable.
The Final Word
While the Warriors have won 25 of their last 26 games when Durant sits and Curry is active, that stat is misleading for a number of reasons. Primarily, Durant rested against below-average teams for many of those games. In these playoffs, Durant has been the failsafe when Golden State’s offensive system breaks down. Without him, the Warriors could hit lengthy cold spells.
Sure, this is the same core that won the 2015 NBA Championship in 2015. But Andre Iguodala was the Finals MVP that year thanks to his elite defensive efforts against LeBron James. Now 35, Iguodala is dealing with a sore knee and has struggled to contain Harden at times. Then, Shaun Livingston is also banged up, and the Warriors bench is far shallower than it was in 2015. Andrew Bogut is no longer the same type of rim protector, and the game has evolved beyond his skill set.
The Warriors should keep this game close and prove early on that they’re still a great team without the two-time reigning Finals MVP. Yet as the game wears on, Houston should start to pull away.
We’re leaning toward the Rockets (-7 on BetStarsNJ) as the pre-game bet but prefer watching the game unfold live so you can capitalize if the line draws closer when the Warriors presumably counterpunch early on.
Houston is 24-16-2 against the spread (ATS) when listed as a home favorite this year, and Golden State has the third-worst percentage ATS (26-36-1) following a win.
The Over (213 on DraftKings Sportsbook) is also a strong bet. Durant’s absence will likely lead to more pace and long-range shooting from the Warriors. It should also lead to more scoring from the Rockets because his defensive contributions are underrated.
The past two games at Toyota Center totaled 224 (in regulation) and 220, so expecting a total to hover around or over 212 doesn’t take much faith.
Of the Warriors’ 46 road games this season, 26 have gone over the point total, and 34 games have gone over the total after a Golden State win. In the playoffs, 7 of 11 Warriors games have gone over the total.
The Pick: Over (213) and Rockets (-7.5)