With a total of just 4 losses at Home in the NBA Regular Season and Playoffs combined, the Golden State Warriors still look like the team to beat this postseason as the NBA Odds reveal. So how can the Houston Rockets—the Warriors opponents in the Western Conference Finals which begin Tuesday night in Oakland—find a way to stop this scoring machine of a team? Defense, of course.
When it gets to this point in the NBA season and a team’s longest losing streak is 2 games and it has a total of just 4 losses overall in the Regular Season and NBA Playoffs combined, such as is now the case with the Western Conference’s Golden State Warriors, then coming up with a ‘How to Beat the Golden State Warriors’ plan is obviously much easier on paper and here on the keyboard than it more than likely will be on the hardwood for Houston Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale and his team, who travel to Oakland, California and the Oracle Arena to face the No. 1-seeded Warriors in Game 1 of their best-of-7 (2-2-1-1-1) Western Conference Finals series on Tuesday night (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT). The NBA odds in many major sportsbooks (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Pinnacle, bet365, William Hill) have the Warriors as big -10 favorites in this Western Conference Final Game 1 opener, with the Total (Points) set at 219 (Pinnacle) and the Moneyline odds for the game seeing Golden State priced at -555 with the Southwest Division-champion underdog Rockets at +475 (Pinnacle).
Before thinking about some potential ways that the No. 2-seeded Houston Rockets may be able to stifle, and potentially beat the Golden State Warriors in these Western Conference Finals, let’s look at some of the highest Series, NBA Finals and NBA Finals MVP odds out there in some markets on Monday morning before this series and the Eastern Conference Finals—which begins on Wednesday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta when LeBron James and the Cavaliers head to Atlanta to face the Hawks—gets underway and the 2015 NBA Playoffs pares down from its own Final Four to the champions of each conference who will meet early next month in the NBA Finals (June 4).
Western Conference Finals Series, NBA Finals and Finals MVP Odds (Monday)
Best Series Price for Warriors (Oddschecker): Warriors -750 (Sportingbet)
Best Series Price for Rockets: Rockets +650 (Paddy Power)
Correct Series Final Odds (Ladbrokes): Warriors 4-0 +350, Warriors 4-1 +175, Warriors 4-2 +375, Warriors 4-3 +375; Rockets 4-0 +10,000 (100/1), Rockets 4-1 +4000, Rockets 4-2 +1200, Rockets 4-3 +1400.
Best NBA Finals Odds for Warriors: Warriors -162 (bet365, SkyBet, William Hill, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power)
Best NBA Finals Odds for Rockets: Rockets +1400 (14/1) (Boylesports, Stan James, William Hill)
Best NBA Finals MVP Odds—Warriors: Stephen Curry -120 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power); Klay Thompson +700 (888sport, 32Red); Andrew Bogut +25,000 (Ladbrokes); Harrison Barnes +25,000 (Ladbrokes).
Best NBA Finals MVP Odds—Rockets: James Harden +120 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, 888sport, 32Red), Dwight Howard +6000 (Paddy Power), Josh Smith +50,000 (Ladbrokes).
>Regular Season Season Series: Warriors 4-0 SU, Warriors 4-0 ATS; Totals: 2-2.
How to Try to Slow Down the Golden State Warriors
Houston Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale and his staff have the very unenviable task of trying to slow down NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 ppg, 6.8 apg) and the Western Conference’s top seed and the team with the NBA’s best Regular Season Record (67-15), the Golden State Warriors, and need to do so with just 1 full day of real Rest (Monday)—after defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 4-3 in their West Semifinals series on Sunday afternoon at home in Houston at the Toyota Center. So, how do the No. 2-seeded Houston Rockets and their star James Harden try to dry up Golden State and The Splash Brothers (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson)? The first, and maybe most important thing the Rockets will need to try to do is somehow Steal The Homecourt Advantage from the Warriors, by either winning Tuesday night’s Game 1 or Thursday’s night’s Game 2 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) at the Oracle in Oakland. Math dictates the only way Houston can oust the Warriors here in this series is by winning (at least) one on the Road. But those who place NBA picks know that it certainly won’t come easy.
The real Blueprint to actually beating this Warriors team was shown to us all in Round 2 of the Western Conference by the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 2 in Oaktown (May 5) in the Semifinals when returning Grizzlies PG Mike Conley and Defensive Freak Tony Allen almost “roughed up” Golden State guards Curry and Thompson, helping Memphis tie the series up at 1-1, beating the hosts 97-90 at the Oracle Arena and sending a little healthy Fear into the Blue-and-Gold hearts of Warriors fans. The Grizzlies shut down the Dynamic Duo of Curry and Thompson and silenced the crowd enough to go into the locker room at Halftime with a nice 50-39 lead, something which this Golden State team was, and is very unfamiliar with. It’s important for opponents to remember that Curry (27 years old) and Thompson (25 years old) are still quite young and can be thrown off their games when bodied, given minimal space and held to relatively tepid shooting starts. In that “Recipe game,” Memphis held the Warriors to 41.9 % FG Shooting, an anemic 23.1% from 3-Point Land—and this team thrives on being able to hit those 3s with two of the best shooting Guards in NBA history—and forced 20 Golden State TOs in a game when Curry (19 points, 6 rebounds) was Human and Thompson was virtually invisible. Maybe McHale experiments some and tries putting 6-g, 215-pound SF Trevor Ariza on Curry in an effort to try to stop him as chopping the head off the snake is probably the best way of killing the snake. We will see soon enough.
Another thing big underdogs Houston will need to try to do here in this series is have the Bigger Presence In The Paint than Golden State, with Bigs Dwight Howard (6-11), Josh Smith (6-9) and the aforementioned Ariza (6-8) having to somehow out-position, out-muscle and ultimately out-play the Warriors Big Men Andrew Bogut (7-0), the underappreciated Draymond Green (6-8) and Harrison Barnes (6-7). Best of Luck with that.
Conclusions? Good luck is my conclusion for Houston. The Warriors went 4-0 SU and 4-0 ATS in the Regular Season against Houston, outscoring them by an average of 115.0-99.8 ppg, and one thing many forget is that Golden State—healthier than the Rockets with starting PG Patrick Beverley and PF Donatas Motiejunas both out for the season—is that the Warriors sort of coasted through the last quarter of the season as they were so far ahead, giving both Mental and Physical rest which will be able to be used now in that critical point which this talented team has been playing for, and expecting to be in, all along—something the Rockets can’t say despite being the conference’s No. 2 seed. To pull off the upset, Houston will have to play great, lockdown Defense and you can’t just turn that stuff on. The Rockets often appear lazy on the Defensive end and starting guards Harden and Jason Terry are renowned for playing awful Defense. And despite being known primarily as Gunners, Curry and Thompson both play energy-expending and quality Defense, and will be better at stopping the Rockets guards probably than they will be at stopping them. Splish, splash James was taking a bath.
And, can Josh Smith stay hot? (And sane?) That’s like hoping the stock markets don’t ultimately correct themselves or that it will never rain in Southern California, brother. The biggest key for the Rockets here in this series will be to try to steal the Momentum somehow, which means either winning Game 1 (on just that 1-day of rest) or, more probable, pulling off the upset in Game 2 on Thursday night, and that will require Houston winning the battle underneath in The Paint as well as slowing down Curry and Thompson from outside, something which could be tough with Harden and Terry suddenly needing to become great at something they’ve prove to be ambivalent about (Defense) in the past. Beating a team with the best Offense in the NBA, just 4 Home Losses and no 3-game losing streaks may actually take some Divine Intervention or something and the Rockets actually believing they can actually knock off the mighty Warriors will be the first step. And Houston and Head Coach McHale have a just 24 hours to snap into that winning mind-frame.
Western Conference Finals Props Pick: Warriors 4-0 +350 (bet365, Ladbrokes)