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Tue 09/05/2017 - 00:58 EDT

Houston Rockets or San Antonio Spurs: Who to back

Houston Rockets or San Antonio Spurs: Who to back
The San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets meet for Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals with two wings apiece. Who should you bet on this Tuesday night? With the help of TopBet's lines, we are here to find out.

Take the Spurs on Tuesday 

San Antonio Spurs (-5.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+5.5)

One half of the Western Conference Finals has been set. The Golden State Warriors completed their sweep of the Utah Jazz on Monday night, in predictably decisive fashion. Now, they sit back and await their opponent.

And that brings us to Game 5 between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.

The series is knotted up at two games apiece, with teams having split each of their homestands. But that doesn't mean this has been a close affair. It's quite the opposite. The average margin of victory has been 21 points per game. The Spurs' 11-point victory in Game 3, on the road, was the smallest margin of the series.

While that accounts for this rather large spread, it doesn't help explain what's going to happen next. As Game 4 proved, these outcomes can essentially be boiled down to the following question: Did the Rockets hit their threes, or did the Spurs prevent them from getting hot behind the three-point line?

The Rockets won the long-ball battle by 36 points on Sunday night. That's can't happen if the Spurs are looking to push back. They don't play a style conducive to shooting a ton of threes. They like to work the clock in the half court, killing you with efficiency rather than speed and range.

That's why it's so important for the Rockets to get out to early leads. Since the Spurs don't play especially fast or shoot an inordinate number of threes, they're more hard-pressed to erase sizable deficits. So when they built a 15-point lead in the first quarter, it felt a lot like Game 1, when the Spurs' doom was spelled early on.

odds

But Tuesday's contest is coming in San Antonio, where the Spurs typically defend very well. They ranked second in points allowed per 100 possessions on their home court during the regular season. They hold opponents to 34.1 percent shooting from long range in front of their fans, which isn't particularly great, but the key in San Antonio has been taking away those shots, period. The Spurs allow opponents to shoot 22.3 three-balls per game when they're in San Antonio—the absolute best mark in the league.

There really is no way to take away the Rockets' three-point looks altogether. They actively seek out that shot, and they will blitz you in the pick-and-roll if you're running them off the three-point line.

Still, it's beyond reasonable to expect the Spurs' defense to be better—a lot better. It's also perfectly reasonable to bet on them shooting better than 30 percent from downtown themselves. And when you close that 36-point gap that existed from beyond the arc in Game 4, you begin to like the Spurs more and more.

Plus, Nene's absence is an understated part of all this. He's done for the postseason after suffering a torn left adductor. That renders the Rockets' pick-and-roll attack a little less dynamic. Clint Capela also doesn't have the girth necessary to take a beating from San Antonio's bigs for 35-plus minutes per game. Nene was valuable in that way, too.

The Rockets can always run super small, with Ryan Anderson at the 5, but they'll defense will be a straight disaster. Either way, this works in the Spurs' favor. Losing Nene may mean more to Houston than losing Tony Parker means to San Antonio.

The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-5.5) 

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