The Warriors lay a huge number (-14) to the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. For Golden State backers, is the spread too big to bet? Our thoughts.
Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals with a sprained left ankle. The All-Star forward rolled it in the third quarter of the opener after landing on Golden State’s Zaza Pachulia’s foot following a contested jumper. The Spurs, owning a 25-point lead at one point following the half, saw their lead evaporate with Leonard out. The Warriors, reaching +900 in live betting to win it, rallied for a 113-111 victory behind Steph Curry’s 40 points. San Antonio owned a +21 point differential with Leonard on the court, -23 with him off.
Oddsmakers opened the Warriors -12 for Game 2 with the prospect Leonard would likely sit. On Monday, his MRI returned clean with no structural damage. The ankle is still tender, forcing Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich to rule the MVP candidate out reluctantly. Some books adjusted to the news by raising the number to -14 Tuesday morning, a modern day record for the Conference championship series. Veteran point guard Tony Parker is also out the remainder of the season.
Over the last 15 years, seven games have tipped off with a double-digit spread in round three, none higher than -12. In addition to the Spurs-Warriors opener on Sunday (-10), Golden State laid 10 or more in three home games versus the Rockets in 2015, while the Cavaliers did the same versus the Raptors in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. Favorites are 7-0 SU and 4-3 ATS, winning by 15.6 points per game. The most lucrative wager is on the UNDER, which is 6-1 overall. Games have stayed south of a 208.6 average total by 5.6 points per contest, in large part to underdogs failing to score. Five of the seven did not reach their projected team total.
Can the Spurs adjust with Leonard out? Popovich’s crew is 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS this year when Leonard sits, including a 114-75 series-clinching win over the Rockets on Thursday. Tipping off -5.3 favorites on average, the defense tightened up in this scenario. The unit allowed just two teams to score over the century mark, yielding 91.8 points per game.
San Antonio is one of the biggest teams in the NBA, and the three-man rotation of LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and David Lee will be critical in Game 2. The Warriors will likely stay small most of the game and force the Spurs’ bigs to challenge them on the perimeter. Kyle Anderson will likely see more minutes for San Antonio. The 6-9 forward is a matchup nightmare with the ability to play anywhere on the court. He recorded a minus-3 in Game 1, though on the floor without Leonard in the contest. Popovich will need a career-defining, break-out effort from the three-year pro in this one.
Warriors win, but Pop will force his brand of deliberate, hard-nosed basketball in the game. The spread is too risky either way, but UNDER 208.5 appears the better value. San Antonio will lean on defense almost exclusively to stay close and attempt a shot at victory. Do not expect the Warriors to thrive in transition—the Spurs will be waiting. Scoring will be at a premium for San Antonio and the action will be gritty.