2018 NBA Western Conference Finals Betting Picks
No team has won the Western Conference four years in a row since the “Showtime” Lakers (1982-85). The Warriors will attempt to do just that, however, the Rockets pose as its biggest threat since Steve Kerr took reigns of the franchise.
No Golden State opponent over that span has won more games (65), posted a better point differential (+8.5), and higher offense rating (112.2) than the Rockets — including the Cleveland team that defeated them in the NBA Finals two seasons ago. Houston brass has admitted they’re “obsessed with beating the Warriors” and have methodically built a team with the reigning champions in mind.
Over the offseason, the Rockets paired Chris Paul with James Harden to counter the Splash Brothers backcourt. The year prior, head coach Mike D’Antoni was hired to install an offense that could keep pace with the Dubs. The result of both moves? Houston set the all-time record for threes made (15.3) and attempted (42.3) per game this season.
The Western Conference Finals, which starts on Monday, will very much be the budding dynasty vs. the dynasty killers. Before we jump into our analysis, thanks to TopBet for the below series odds!
Exact Series Outcome: No. 2 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 1 Houston Rockets
Let’s talk about threes again because that’s the calling card of both these teams, or is it? Certainly for the Rockets, but not so much for the Dubs, not anymore at least.
Golden State attempted 28.9 shots from downtown this season — which surprisingly ranked 16th in the NBA. There’s no denying Steph Curry and company popularized the three-ball, but it’s become less and less a part of their arsenal since taking the league by storm with it in 2015.
The clear-cut difference between the two is the Warriors are far more efficient in the category. They shot an NBA-best .391 percent from beyond the arc — the Rockets’ .362 percentage rate lagged at 13th.
Just as relying on threes is a misconception for Golden State, Houston’s reputation for playing no defense couldn’t be farther from the truth.
That stigma has followed D’Antoni throughout his coaching career, and fairly so. However, the acquisitions of defensive stalwarts like Paul, PJ Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute (a real name, by the way) have transformed this team’s identity. Throw in the ascent of Clint Capela — a legit Defensive Player of the Year contender — and you wind up with a sixth-rated defense in efficiency.
Speaking of Capela, he’s the series biggest X-factor. The big man has held his own through the first two rounds, averaging 14.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. Moreover, he’s outplayed equally-talented bigs in Karl Anthony-Towns and Rudy Gobert. Though, Draymond Green promises to be an even bigger test for Capela.
How Capela responds when the Hampton Five (Curry, Green, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala) are on the court will decide who punches their ticket to the NBA Finals. Either his 6-foot-10 frame will force the Dubs to go big as well, or the Hampton Five’s speed will prove to be Capela’s undoing.
Outside of Capela, this matchup will boil down to the franchise cornerstones, James Harden and Curry. Which of the two will be the best player on the court?
It’s a foregone conclusion that Harden will be named league MVP after posting a gaudy stat line of 30.4 points and 8.8 assists per game this season. However, the Warriors appear to have his number.
Since 2014, Harden has an abysmal 5-18 record against the Dubs, including two playoff exits. Turnovers have proved to be Harden’s biggest bugaboo in those games, giving it up a whopping 4.9 times per contest. Harden is playing better than ever, but those whispers of him lacking a “clutch gene” will only grow louder if his turnover habit continues.
The only real worry regarding Curry is if his knee is 100-percent healthy? He looked close to it in the Pelicans elimination game, logging 37 minutes — his most since February 22. The possibility of a setback lingers, though, which would prove catastrophic for Golden State.
This is very much a series you have to monitor game-by-game. Kerr and D’Antoni are two of the game’s greatest coaches, so adjustments will be plentiful throughout.
But if you have to bet now, it’s hard not to side with the Warriors. The mantra, “to be the man, you have to beat the man” rings true in this case. Golden State remains the gold standard.
Category : Sports Betting
Tag : nbaMore articles...