There were buckets aplenty in Game 1 of the Western final, but the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors still went UNDER the giant total on the NBA odds board.
Jason’s record as of May 19: 77-78-5 ATS, 15-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
Money money money, hubba hubba hubba. The Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors went at it hammer-and-tong in Game 1 of their Western Conference final on Tuesday, but in the end, they came up short of that massive 220-point total on the NBA odds board. Final score: Golden State 110, Houston 106. Things could have gone either way, of course, but with a total that high, we were more than happy to take our chances with the UNDER.
Now we have to figure out what we're going to do for Game 2. As we go to press, the basketball odds haven't changed: The total is still 220 points. But our early consensus reports show 55 percent of bettors leaning toward the OVER. The Dwight Howard injury might play a role in that. We've only just found out the results of his MRI, which say Howard has a strained right knee – not bruised as previously thought. Howard's questionable to play Thursday (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), so as we did for our look at the spread, we're going to present two scenarios for your basketball picks: Howard plays, or he doesn't.
Scenario 1: Howard Plays
Howard (19.2 PER, plus-1.2 DBPM) was injured in the first quarter of Game 1 and was in and out of the lineup after that. Golden State was able to take advantage and go small with Draymond Green (16.4 PER) at center, getting in the paint and doing damage inside. Green finished the night with eight assists to go with his 13 points and 12 rebounds. Very nice, but they still went UNDER the posted total.
If Howard does play on Thursday, he might be just as gimpy as he was on Tuesday, or he might be a little better. Either way, we'd be inclined to stick with the game plan and take the UNDER again. Life isn't so bad if the Warriors are funnelling their offense into the paint. It'll keep them off the perimeter, where they've thrived all year long. And it'll encourage the Rockets to stay big with Clint Capela (minus-8.8 OBPM, plus-1.0 DBPM) and perhaps Joey Dorsey (minus-3.5 OBPM, plus-2.1 DBPM).
Free NBA Pick: Take UNDER
Scenario 2: Howard Doesn't Play
There are two ways this could shake out. One, Capela and Dorsey get even more minutes as Houston stays big. Two, and more likely, the Rockets spend more time with a smallball lineup on the floor. This is where the floodgates could open up. Pairing Josh Smith (15.2 PER) and Terrence Jones (18.3 PER) in the frontcourt is an open invitation for the Rockets to put on the afterburners. More possessions, and more 3-pointers taken.
Speaking of which, Houston and Golden State were having a little more trouble than usual scoring from downtown on Tuesday. There were standout performances from Stephen Curry (28.0 PER), who shot 6-of-11, and Trevor Ariza (12.7 PER), who sank four of his five trey attempts. But in total, the two teams combined to go 18-for-51 (35.3 percent). Good defense was part of the picture. Bent rims were the other part.
In this scenario with Howard not involved, we're much more inclined to put the OVER in our NBA picks. That 220-point total is still too big for our tastes, but given what all of us saw in Game 1, and the adjustments that would likely be made in Game 2, the table would be set for some insane offensive flow. Note that our total picks in these two scenarios also mesh nicely with our ATS picks. If Howard suits up, the underdog-UNDER parlay is in play. If Howard sits, the classic favorite-OVER combo is worth a shot. And may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take OVER 220 at BetOnline