Welcome to the Thursday, May 16 edition of the NBA Best Bets column. Here, I’ll strive to identify one NBA bet for today’s Golden State-Portland 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. 23: Warriors 125, Blazers 97 (Oracle Arena)
- Dec. 27: Blazers 110, Warriors 109 (OT) (Oracle Arena)
- Dec. 29: Warriors 115, Blazers 105 (Moda Center)
- Feb. 13: Blazers 129, Warriors 107 (Moda Center)
Playoff series results:
- May 14: Warriors 114, Blazers 96 (Oracle Arena)
5/16/19 NBA Betting Pick:
Golden State Warriors (57-25 reg. season, 9-4 postseason) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (53-29 reg. season, 8-5 postseason)
The young Trail Blazers grew up over the past two seasons and seemed prepared to challenge the Warriors on the road in the Western Conference Finals. We thought their third-ranked offense and above-average defense could keep Game 1 relatively close. Well, we were wrong.
Perhaps it was due to fatigue after winning a seven-game series in the altitude at Denver, or perhaps there was simply a different level of play in the Warriors-Rockets series that Portland was not prepared to match.
Either way, Portland was dominated in terms of coaching, defensive scheme, effort, and mental toughness in the opening game of this series.
After rediscovering his swagger while knocking out the Rockets, Steph Curry got a string of the most open looks he’s had all playoffs. He promptly shot 9-for-15 from downtown, scoring 36 points with an absurd .740 true shooting percentage. Curry is now locked in, and the Blazers have a serious problem. Even if they make the proper adjustment by switching and going over the top of screens, Curry is breaking them down off the bounce and role players are cutting for easy hoops when he penetrates.
Blazers HC Terry Stotts stubbornly refused to admit that playing “drop coverage” when Curry and Klay Thompson came off picks was an incredibly stupid strategy during his postgame press conference. He should come to a different conclusion behind closed doors and adjust his defensive scheme in Game 2.
On the other end of the floor, Klay put the clamps on C.J. McCollum and held him to 7-for-19 FG shooting. Coincidentally, that’s almost the exact shooting line CJM put up in his sole appearance at Oracle this season. This comes after McCollum shot 16-for-28 for 41 points in a Game 1 first-round loss at Oracle in 2017, so it’s not as if he’s incapable of producing against Thompson and company.
McCollum did seem a bit subdued, and even more troubling for the Blazers was the mental state of Damian Lillard. He was baffled by the Warriors’ blitzing strategy and turned the ball over seven times en route to another playoff stinker.
Lillard is now 21-for-67 (.313) from the field and is averaging a measly 16.5 PPG over his last four road playoff games. He appeared to tweak his hamstring early in the second half and looked completely disengaged from that point on, finishing as a -22 in the 22-point loss.
Meanwhile, Draymond Green (+12) and Andre Iguodala (+16) continued to do the little things for the Warriors on both ends. Along with Kevon Looney and Shaun Livingston, those elite role players set good screens and delivered the ball on target to help the Splash Brothers shoot a combined 22-for-47 (.468) from the floor in Game 1.
Some of those screens toed the line of legality, but unless the officials call Game 2 much differently, or the Blazers are savvy enough to flop on shady screens, they will continue to get torched.
This is gut check time for the young Blazers, though not necessarily for their role players, who actually out-played the Warriors bench and kept Game 1 hovering around an eight-point deficit until the fourth quarter.
It’s time for Lillard and McCollum to show they’re not complacent with their first WCF appearance and actually want to push the champs. Both guards looked overwhelmed by the moment and, eventually, seemed resigned to their fate as a stepping stone toward another Warriors title.
Note that even in the one game Portland won at Oracle (110-109 in OT) this year, Lillard and McCollum shot a combined 14-for-44 (.318) while Jusuf Nurkic (27 points, 12 rebounds) carried them. Nurkic is obviously out for this series, but the Blazers did establish an easy source of offense by capitalizing on the Warriors traps and getting the ball to the high post. That allowed Zach Collins, Moe Harkless, and Evan Turner to catch and attack or facilitate, creating a number of points in the paint.
Portland will have to stick with that approach if the Dubs continue to blitz Lillard 30 feet from the basket. Then, Rodney Hood was excellent off the bench for Portland. The Blazers’ superior depth and their physical advantage down low is noteworthy.
At the start of Game 1, the Blazers established Enes Kanter in the post, too. He was able to score or dish out of double teams. Kanter also gobbled up 16 boards at a game-high 29.2% rebounding rate, and he should be a factor in Game 2 against the Warriors’ undersized frontcourt.
The Final Word
While Portland is good enough to challenge the shorthanded Warriors and make this a series with Kevin Durant (calf) out for around another week, a road win seems extremely unlikely.
The Blazers were 32-9 with a stellar +8.2 point differential at home this year but went 21-20 with an even point differential on the road. They’re now 12-19 against the spread (ATS) as road underdogs and 6-7 ATS in these playoffs.
The Warriors (-8 on FanDuel Sportsbook) are 38-17 when playing on one day of rest this year and are fully capable of utilizing their superior playoff experience to dominate again. We expect a closer final margin than Tuesday’s 22-point victory but believe there are more scenarios in which the Warriors pull away and the young Blazers start to look ahead toward trying to even the series at home.
Since 2005, favorites with a superior record have covered in 53.6% of playoff games. That percentage increases more when the spread is six points or greater. The point total is dropping as a result of Portland’s offensive inefficacy in Game 1. But these teams have gone over their assigned point total more often than not in these playoffs, and the pace was right where you’d like it to be if you bet the Over.
We’re recommending the Over (218 on BetStarsNJ) as the stronger bet but wouldn’t shy away from predicting another double-digit win by the surging Warriors.
The Pick: Over (218.5) and Warriors (-8)