Once again, the NBA odds have the Golden State Warriors pegged as double-digit home faves against the Houston Rockets. The early bettors are on Houston, go figure.
Jason’s record as of May 25: 79-82-5 ATS, 19-21 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
This is not a recording. As we go to press, the Golden State Warriors are 10.5-point home favorites for Wednesday's Game 5 (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) against the Houston Rockets. The same 10.5 points the Warriors were laying in Game 1, when Houston took it to the top seed in the Western Conference before losing 110-106. Sure, Golden State has a 3-1 lead in the Western final, but the Rockets are up 3-1 where it counts: against the spread. What part of this does the betting market not understand?
The early (and presumably sharp) bettors know what I'm taking about. Our consensus reports show 65 percent support for the Rockets at this bargain price. We're obviously going to stick with the same basketball pick we've been making all series – especially with the NBA odds staying exactly where they were in Game 1. But let's take a moment to set the table for Game 5 and see what's changed since the series opened in Oakland.
Protect Ya Neck
Here's one thing that nearly changed Monday night: the position of Stephen Curry's head relative to his shoulders. Curry took a hard spill in Game 4, and ended up missing about a quarter's worth of the action before returning to the court. I only saw this from the comfort of my own living room, but for the first few minutes after his return, it looked like Curry's brain was still in outer space somewhere.
Should Curry (26.9 playoff PER) have been allowed back in? We'll let other people talk about that. What matters for us is that Golden State's best player, and perhaps the best player in the league right now, nearly got dumped right on his melon. That's not going to improve his level of play in Game 5. It might not detract from it much, either, depending on how Curry feels. But that uncertainty works in the favor of our NBA picks.
Krusher Krushchev vs. Junkyard Dog
There was one other Channel 39 wrestling moment in Game 4: Dwight Howard threw a back elbow in the general direction of Andrew Bogut's face, drawing a flagrant foul. Howard wasn't looking directly at Bogut, which might have saved him from getting ejected, but the league could still step in and suspend Howard for Game 5. We haven't heard anything yet about it at press time; however, just in case, we'll be making a contingency pick on the Warriors if Howard can't play – just like we did for Game 2.
Elbows aside, everyone here at the ranch is pleased with the way Howard (20.6 playoff PER) has elevated his game in the postseason. He leads the Rockets with a plus-4.6 DBPM (Defensive Box Plus/Minus), up from plus-1.3 DBPM during the regular season. Howard also had a very efficient 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting in Game 4 as Houston (+4.5 at home) staved off elimination with a 128-115 victory. Very nice.
Rainy Days and Mondays
Otherwise, it's pretty much the same-old, same-old for Wednesday's game. Curry shot 6-of-13 from downtown on Monday, ho-hum. James Harden (26.4 playoff PER) canned seven of his 11 trey attempts and finished the night with 45 points, yawn. The usual supporting players had their usual strong games for both sides. And everyone made it out of Houston safely after storms and flash floods hit the area during the game.
That about covers it. Game 5 is just another basketball game; we'd still be delighted if this pick cashed in 56 percent of the time in the long run. But we're 100 percent confident that Houston (with Howard) is the correct pick to make in this situation.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets +10 at 5Dimes if Howard plays; take the Warriors -10 if he doesn't.