Game 4: Golden State (63-28 SU, 39-51-1 ATS) at Houston (58-32 SU, 45-42-2 ATS)
When: 9:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
Free NBA Pick: Warriors ATS
Best Line Offered: 5Dimes
Golden State is in a great spot to succeed. Dating to last postseason, the Warriors have won by eight, 26, 41, 27, and 19 points with a healthy Andre Iguodala following a playoff loss. Iggy is very important because he allows the Warriors to play without a traditional center while still having the length to be effective on the glass. His presence keeps Houston from using Clint Capela as it normally does and Houston’s second-leading scorer during the regular season is averaging 6.5 fewer points per game in the series. Iggy is a smart player offensively, as evidenced by his better than 4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He is also a superb defender who is versatile in that he can switch on everything. In this series, Iggy is +6, +17, and +5 in three games, respectively.
The biggest area where enhanced focus from Golden State will make a difference is rebounding. After the Warriors out-rebounded the Rockets by 18 in the first two games of the series combined, the Rockets out-rebounded them by 19 in the third game. Part of Houston’s advantage was schematic. Their switches on defense sometimes kept Warrior players from being in a good position to rebound and that is a tendency which Coach Kerr can repair by making some adjustments. A lot of the rebounding disparity was effort and a lot of it was focus, as several times Warrior players missed super simple boxout opportunities. Golden State still holds an advantage in length.
Despite being massively out-rebounded, the Warriors could have won. They also could have won despite continued poor performances from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry shot 7-for-23 from the floor in Game 3. While his taped fingers are surely negatively affecting his performance, he won’t likely be as atrocious in Game 4. Aside from the occasional reach-in calls, his defending had also been much better during the first two games of the series. I hold hope for Thompson, who again struggled from three, but at least flashed some effectiveness in the mid-range game.
If the Warriors either avoid getting destroyed again on the boards or if they get something from Curry or Thompson, then they will win handily. If somehow neither happens, then we still have the advantage of getting the Warriors as underdogs, which is just what one wants in a nail-biter. In such a scenario, the Warriors can still lean on point-machine Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, who diced Houston’s defense again for a 10-assist game, and Iguodala.
Houston displayed more effort in Game 3 but still looks uninspiring on offense. Chris Paul continues to be a non-factor and, given the number of open looks that he passed up, seems to be lacking confidence. The Rockets run a lot of isolation plays with James Harden dribbling around and trying to make something happen. Only Eric Gordon offered much help offensively. He shot well beyond himself, especially from three, and should fall back down to Earth.