NBA Pick: 'Over'/'Under' Value In Rockets vs. Warriors Game 1

Jay Pryce

Saturday, April 16, 2016 1:14 PM GMT

What a difference a year makes. Last season, Warriors and Rockets hooked up as #1 and #2 seeds in the WC Finals. This year, it's a lopsided one-eight matchup. Get your NBA pick for game 1 here.

Houston Rockets (41-41 SU, 35-45-2 ATS)
Something wasn't right with the Rockets from the get-go. Following a sluggish 4-7 start, a players-only meeting prompted the front office to fire then-head coach Kevin McHale just 11 games into the season. This, despite a three-year extension over the summer off the heels of a 56-26 regular-season record and three-straight playoff appearances.

Many thought the release premature, and in hindsight they were correct. Houston limped to a .500 record, plagued by bad defense, poor chemistry, and an inability to protect the ball. Though it made the postseason again, it did so just barely.

Houston is all offense, which isn't a bad thing in the modern-day NBA. It scored 106.5 per game, owning the league's seventh most efficient unit at 108.3 points per 100 possessions. It's 106.4 points allowed on defense, though, is its Achilles heel.

Although they play at a quick pace due to their high-firing offense, part of why the Rockets give up so many points is the fact they allow a slew of good shots. Their opponent assist-to-field goals made rate of .630 is higher than everybody but the Bucks. Bad news for this series. There's no team better in the league at creating efficient looks than Golden State (.680 A/FGM).

For what it's worth, the Rockets give up 111.1 points per game as a road dog this season. In three games gaining a double-digit spread in the betting market, the defense allowed 123, 130, and 121 respectively to the Warriors and Spurs twice.

For Houston to have a chance at pulling off the monumental upset, it will need James Harden to explode like he did back in February when the four-time All Star dropped 35 points in a losing effort to the Warriors (123-110) as 14-point dogs. They did beat the number—just barely. In fact, when Harden scores 35 points or more in a game, the Rockets are 14-5 SU and 12-6-1 ATS, 10 times winning outright as the underdog.

Golden State Warriors (73-9 SU, 43-35-4 ATS)
Bookmakers are dealing 1-to-2 odds on Golden State repeating as champs. Setting the NBA's regular-season wins total, it and the Spurs are just the ninth and tenth teams to finish with a plus-10 points differential in league history. Check out our write-up on the Warriors playoff value to see how well such dominating organizations fared in postseason play.

Warriors are a matchup nightmare for Houston. They've taken 12 of the last 13 meetings, going 9-4 ATS and winning by an average of 10.9 points. The typical fan might thinks it's because the leaky Rockets defense can't slow down the number one scoring team in the league (114.9 ppg), but its really the Golden State unit stymieing Houston's high-scoring offense making the difference.

Steph Curry and company are posting just 111.8 points per game in this stretch, but hold the Rockets to 100.9 on 41.5 percent shooting. It often goes overlooked, but the defense is the seventh most efficient in the NBA.

The Warriors tipped off as double-digit favorites in 43 games this season, the most since the Bulls closed with 47 and 50 respectively in the 1995-96 and 1996-96 seasons. Coach Steve Kerr's squad went 22-20-1 ATS in these contests, losing just three outright.

Must Read: Handicappers' Prediction On Rockets vs. Warriors First Game

Final Analysis
The Warriors handled the Rockets easily in last season's Western Conference Finals, and should have no problem brushing them aside this year.

NBA odds boards opened the reigning champs as 14-point chalk for Game 1, adjusting to -13 nearly 24 hours out from the tip. The number is just about where it should be, and we see little value there.

The 'over'-'under', which opened at 226 and has dropped to 225 as of publication, may offer a bit more wiggle room. Both teams play at a lightening pace, but the postseason crowd, intense pressure, and atmosphere usually makes for some off-shots and pumped-up home court defenses. We'll take the 'under' 225 as our play and your NBA pick tonight.

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Free NBA Pick: 'Under' 225 (-105)
Best Line Offered: at Bovada