No KD As Golden State Tries To Finish Off Houston

The Golden State Warriors will try to advance to the Western Conference Finals on Friday night as they play Game 6 of their best of 7 series against the Houston Rockets. Golden State scrapped out a 104-99 win at home on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 edge in the set but the victory was a costly one. Kevin Durant left Game 4 with a lower leg injury that has since been confirmed to be be a mild right calf strain. Durant has been ruled out of the remainder of this series but head coach Steve Kerr has indicated that if the Warriors advance to the Conference Finals that it ‘looks good for his return in the not-too-distant future’.

Houston has won and covered both games at home during this series but Games 3 and 4 were both extremely competitive. Houston won Game 3 by 5 points and took Game 4 in overtime by 4 points. This is far from a surprise since all five games have been decided by single digits–Golden State won Game 1 by 4 and Game 2 by 6 with a 5 point victory in Game 5. The Rockets have been one of the best home court investments in the NBA during this season. To date, they’re 36-10 SU/27-17-2 on their home floor. Of course, Golden State has been one of the best road teams in the league this year. Their pointspread record in most situations isn’t very good–that’s the byproduct of being such a huge ‘public’ team. The Warriors went 30-16 SU on the road but just 21-25 ATS.

With Durant out, the Warriors relied on their two stalwarts–Steph Curry had 25 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while Klay Thompson added 27 points. And as ridiculous as this statement sounds, James Harden was ‘held’ to just 31 points which is his second lowest point total of the series and only the second time in the series that he’s scored fewer than 35 points. With the exception of Eric Gordon (19 points) Harden didn’t get much help in the Rockets’ Game 5 loss.

From a pointspread standpoint, Game 6 might be a rare opportunity where the Warriors are an excellent betting value. The Rockets have an obvious ‘must win’ situation at hand and on balance in this type of spot it’s better to go against the team that ‘must win’. There are a number of emotional/subjective reasons for this but ultimately it’s a matter of line value. The public has a tendency to overvalue ‘must win’ teams. Part two of the pointspread equation is the Kevin Durant injury. Bettors have a tendency to overestimate the significance of short term player injuries. The higher profile a player, the more the overestimation. Long term or season ending injuries have a much different psychological dynamic but most teams–particularly pro teams–are good at ‘picking up the slack’ when a big star is out.

The result of the aforementioned situations is Golden State as an underdog of more than +5 points for just the second time this year. They were a +9.5 point underdog at Toronto on November 29 with Steph Curry out of the lineup. The Raptors won, but they needed overtime to do it and the Warriors covered the NBA pointspread. The line on this game is historically significant–it’s the biggest underdog price on Golden State with Steph Curry in the lineup during Steve Kerr’s tenure as head coach. That’s a streak of 440 games. Kerr made a very important point during his media availability on Thursday:

“It’s the playoffs, it’s the ultimate test. We’re in a great spot, we’re up 3-2. Got championship rings on our fingers. Lot of experience and a lot of confidence that comes from that. So let’s go out there and let it rip.”

He continued to say that he liked the team’s mindset in this situation:

“There’s an advantage to have championship experience. To have rings on your fingers. This group will never be doubted. This group has nothing to prove. There is a freedom with that. We’re being hit with injuries, which is a part of it. One of the reasons it’s so hard to win a championship because things like this happen. We’ve been with injuries in the past during this run. This is probably the hardest we’ve been hit with DeMarcus (Cousins) and Kevin. The challenge is here, right there in front of our guys. We just have to win one game, so let’s do it.”

The Warriors biggest problem during the regular season and into the playoffs is focus. This will get their focus and a focused Warriors team–even without Durant–is scary. Getting this many points with Golden State is just too good to pass up.


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