NBA Picks: Warriors' Defense To Rule Over Rockets Again

Jay Pryce

Monday, April 18, 2016 12:47 PM GMT

The Rockets look to rally in Game 2 following a 104-78 beatdown to the Warriors in the first-round opener. What’s the play? Get you free NBA pick and bet analysis here.

Houston Rockets (41-42 SU, 35-46-2 ATS)
“I thought our defense was excellent…we made them earn every point,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr commented following Golden State’s Game 1 victory. And earn them they did. The Rockets 78 points were the second fewest scored all season.

As we noted in our last preview, the Warriors’ efficient defense is the difference-maker when these two meet up. Dating back to February 2014, Golden State has taken 13 of the last 14 straight up (10-4 ATS).

The reigning champions are holding high-flying Houston, who averages 105.4 points over the last two years, to just 99.3 per game on a dismal 41.1 percent shooting during the stretch. Houston has scored 100 points or more just six times; Golden State has reached the century mark in all but two.

In order for Houston to challenge for a win, they will need James Harden to explode offensively. When the NBA’s second-leading points getter (29.0 ppg) nets 35 points or more in a game, it is 14-5 SU (12-6-1 ATS) this season according to the NBA odds boards.

This mark is imperative against the Warriors, too. In the 14-game run noted above, the Rockets are 3-1 ATS if Harden reaches 35 points, 1-9 ATS if held under. The one victory over Golden State came at the hands of a 45-point gem, the most the four-time All Star has put up in the span.

In order for Harden to find his scoring touch, he will need to improve on two key areas: turnovers and free-throw attempts. His 374 giveaways on the year set an NBA record for most in a season. He gifted six in Game 1. He also failed to get to the charity stripe for the first time since January of the 2014 season.

The league leader in iso-square ups, Harden averaged 10.2 attempts per game. He needs to take control and be cautiously aggressive for Houston’s sake. Pronto.

 

Golden State Warriors (74-9 SU, 44-35-4 ATS)
The big concern for the Warriors is the status of NBA scoring champion Steph Curry. Tweaking his troublesome ankle minutes before halftime in Game 1, the injury forced the sharpshooter to retire from the contest midway through the third quarter—yet he still managed to drop 24 points.

Curry reportedly sat out of practice Sunday to receive treatment. His status is questionable, but he is hopeful to play. Since Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Curry emerged as the core three for the East Bay franchise two years ago, the reigning MVP has failed to suit up for five games.

The Warriors are 2-3 SU and 1-4 ATS in these contests. In four of these, Thompson and Green played; struggling to an average scoring margin of negative 5.3 points. Offense diminished as expected, as the Warriors failed to surpass their team total in all but one.

 

Final Analysis
In Game 1 we liked the 'Under' as our bet with the Warriors’ defense a matchup nightmare for Houston. The 225 total opening was excessively high. Books are more cautious in Game 2 with the prospect of Curry hobbled by injury, setting the 'Over-Under' at 221.5.

The total has since adjusted to 218.5. Harden should be improved, but there’s still a bit of value below the total. 'Under' 218 is the NBA pick.

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Free NBA Pick: 'Under' 218 (-103)
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle