The Golden State Warriors are double-digit home faves on the NBA odds board for Tuesday's Western Finals opener against the Houston Rockets. Too chalky, or not too chalky?
Jason’s record as of May 18: 76-78-5 ATS, 14-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
The future of basketball has finally arrived. The Western Conference has come down to a pair of new-school teams: the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets. You want speed? These were the fastest two teams in the NBA during the regular season, according to possessions per game. You want 3-pointers? Houston (32.7 per game) attempted the most, while Golden State (39.8 percent) had the highest accuracy. All this, and defense, too.
But the NBA odds say the Warriors are a cut above. As we go to press, they're 10-point home faves for Tuesday night's opener (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) in their Western final against the Rockets. Ten points! That's enough chalk to fill the San Francisco Bay. Our early consensus reports show 54-56 percent of bettors willing to take Houston at those odds. And if you've read our preview for the entire series, you probably know which side the home office is on, too.
Five Guys Named Mo'
We're not about to claim that Houston (64-30 SU, 55-39 ATS) is the better team straight-up. Nothing that's happened in 2014-15 suggests that. Golden State (75-17 SU, 52-39-1 ATS) has the better won-loss record. Golden State has the better point differential at plus-10.1, well ahead of Houston at plus-3.4. Even if you focus squarely on the playoffs and bring some more advanced stats into the mix, the Warriors lead the way with a Net Rating of plus-9.5. The Rockets are minus-0.9.
We could go on. During the regular season, these teams met four times, and Golden State won all four games SU and ATS. But as we said in our series preview, the Rockets didn't have all four of their best players available at the same time for any of those four games: James Harden (26.7 PER), Dwight Howard (19.2 PER), Terrence Jones (18.3 PER), and Josh Smith (15.2 PER). Now they do.
This is why we're not sweating the injuries to Patrick Beverley (11.3 PER) and Donatas Motiejunas (14.4 PER), although Houston's chances would obviously be better with those two players in the mix. Take a look at the 5-Man Unit stats at 82games, and you'll see how well the Rockets did in lineups with Jason Terry (11.4 PER) at the point, and any two of Smith, Jones and Howard down low. Those lineups were among Houston's most efficient this year.
If we hired a truckload of quants to crunch the numbers, we'd probably be able to churn out some point values to add up and tell you how valuable it is for the Rockets to have all four of their top players available. But what we can do is rely on the good people at Basketball Reference and their Simple Rating System, available to all of us (with Web access, that is) for free. And with a little quick and dirty math, we can easily conclude that the Rockets as constructed have NBA pick value at +10.
First, take the plus-10.01 SRS that the Warriors posted during the regular season. Then subtract Houston's plus-3.82 SRS. That leaves... let's see, carry the one... 6.19 points of difference between the two teams. Home-court advantage was worth about 2.25 points this year, but let's be generous and give the Dubs 3.5 points for their raucous crowd at the Oracle. That's still below 10 points, and again, we have to add something for Houston having all of its Four Horsemen on the loose.
If that's not convincing enough, well, we could tell you that the Rockets were 19-14 ATS this year in the underdog role. Or that the Warriors were 18-25 ATS when allowing at least 100 points. In a matchup where both teams are going to be running up and down the court and chucking 3-pointers, Houston will probably have to draw a lot of iron for Golden State supporters to get paid.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Rockets at BetOnline