Can’t wait for this one to tip off. The hype for the offense in this series on both sides doesn’t have to be explained. The defense for both of these teams is what makes them so special to watch because when they’re both at they’re best, they’re forcing turnovers and creating easy buckets off of defense.
There are a lot of things that will decide this series – 3 point shooting, mismatches off pick and rolls, coaching adjustments, and 4th quarter play all being at the top of the list. Here is what to look for as this series plays out:
- The Warriors small-ball “Hamptons 5” lineup
Steve Kerr started Andre Igoudala vs the Pelicans instead of any of his bigs. The success came right away as the Warriors played fast, were able to switch everything on defense 1-5, and had five shooters on the floor at all times. The question a lot of people have is, “Can Clint Capela stay on the floor when the Warriors go small?” The thought here is if Capela plays heavy minutes against this lineup then the Warriors can force pick & roll mismatches with Capela vs Curry, Capela vs Thompson, and Capela vs Durant. All three matchups favor the Warriors. But when the Rockets are on offense Capela can hurt the Warriors in a few areas – offensive rebounds (no question Capela has an advantage over Draymond Green no matter how physical he is ) and when Capela screens for Harden or Chris Paul and rolls to the basket with a small defender switched on him. The Rockets can feast off inside baskets in the second scenario and the Warriors would likely be forced to pull a weakside defender in underneath to help on Capela when he rolls to the basket. Capela is good enough to use his size and dominate underneath even if the Warriors pull an extra defender in. If Capela passes the ball out to the three point line then that’s where Houston’s role players are really going to be key….
2. How Houston’s role players shoot from three
Harden and CP3 will both get theirs throughout the series. How they play in 4th quarters will decide this series but how the Rockets’ role players shoot from downtown will be the difference between Houston jumping out to early leads or Houston playing catch-up. PJ Tucker is on fire – he’s 18 for 32 from three point range his last 6 games. Eric Gordon is heating up – 3+ three pointers made in 5 of his last 8 games. Trevor Ariza has been on and off shooting 34% for the playoffs. When Harden is at his best and the role players are “on” this team typically jumps out to leads that forces teams to play catch up all game. Which brings me to the next point:
3. Golden State’s runs
They’re the best in the NBA at turning a deficit into a double digit lead in a matter of minutes. The Warriors have the most 10-0 runs in the last 4 years and have had 14 of them against the Rockets since 2014. My ears perked when I saw this stat because (if you’ve been following me for longer than probably 96 hours) you know live betting is one of my favorite ways to bet basketball. Drastic runs create very strong live betting value as the spreads change quickly in a matter of minutes. I plan on feeling this series out and seeing how both coaches use their rotations while I evaluate the best way to live bet this matchup.
Another thing to note: the Warriors outscored their opponents by 433 points in 92 3rd quarters this year (4.7 ppg).
I’m keeping an eye specifically on when Durant and either Curry or Klay are out at the same time. The Rockets bench is exceptionally deep and has a mix of great defense, 3 point shooters, and big man defense in Nene in the second rotation. The Warriors’ days of a strong 10-11 man rotation are gone and they are more a 9 man rotation relying on David West and Shaun Livingston who have slightly lost a step each at the latter parts of their careers. There is no more Barbosa or Mo Speights that just inject that quick offense and energy off the bench…it’s just not there like it was in 2015 and 2016. The Rockets’ bench of Eric Gordon, Gerald Green, Luc Mbah a Moute and Nene Hilario can and should outplay the Warriors bench. How this ties into lives is I can see predictable scenarios later in the series where there is value betting the Rockets live when the second units come in and then betting the Warriors live when the first units come back on the floor. I anticipate there being times where I can get the Rockets at a cheap spread when the second units come in, the Rockets build a lead, and then I take the Warriors live as underdogs when the starters come back in. I look for scenarios where I can create these live “middles” and I’ll be patiently waiting for this to play out.
4. Coaching adjustments and 4th quarter basketball
Steve Kerr will outcoach D’Antoni. Rockets will have games where they start out hot and build leads. Can they sustain leads in the 4th quarters though? Especially when the series tightens up in Games 3, 4, 5 and 6? Steph and Klay have owned Harden and CP3 late in games over the years and this is a tall task for the Rockets over a 7 game series (not to mention Harden’s complete no show last year in Game 7 vs the Spurs – 10 points in a 39 point loss). These bottom-line scenarios will determine whether the Rockets can actually pull this series off or if they’ll just be a team with great talent who looks amazing at times but just can’t close the deal.
Speaking of bottom lines….
The bottom line
I think Houston can start fast in a few games and land the first punch. I think they’ll do exactly that tonight in Game 1 as this is the biggest game in Houston in several years. I think whoever wins Game 1 should make you want to line up and bet the other team to win Game 2 (the line will be a near PK again). I will be surprised if this series goes to Golden State for Game 3 at anything different than tied 1-1. Houston will look very explosive at times throughout the series and force Golden State to play from behind. The Warriors will show off their championship mentality though and likely have one epic comeback in this series.
I’m predicting the Warriors win this series in a tough Game 7…maybeeee 6 if they can force Harden or CP3 into a 4th quarter no show early in the series.
As for Game 1 I’m on the Rockets -1 for 1 unit (1 to 5 unit scale) in a game I expect them to come out with a lot of energy and hit 3 point shots early and often.
I’ll be on the couch tonight watching this one closely and hunting for any in-game angles I can find throughout the series. Enjoy the start of a great one. It would be a pretty solid end to National Sports Betting Day to put some money in our pockets and I’m looking to do exactly that….also may have to lobby for an actual National Sports Betting Day since I have to scroll on Instagram and see fake holidays promoted about 3 times a month.