What do you get when you put the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets on the floor at the same time? You get a sky-high total on the NBA odds board for Game 1.
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)
For two of the best defensive teams in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets sure see a lot of jacked-up totals. When they meet this Tuesday (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the Oracle, the Dubs and Rox will be staring at a massive over/under target of 219 points – or perhaps even higher. Our early consensus reports show 56 percent of bettors picking the OVER, driving the NBA odds up from 218.5 points at the open. A handful of books have already made the move to 219.5 points as we go to press.
Totals haven't been all that kind to us here at the ranch. But when we see a total this high, our instincts and our training tell us to put the UNDER in our NBA picks. Let's dig deep, peel back the layers, and see if we can support that gut reaction with some cold, hard data.
But first, the logic. Casual fans tend to wager on the outcomes they want to see, and everyone loves buckets. That's why the UNDER tends to be the more profitable sports bet across the board. Unfortunately, NBA games go into overtime often enough to make that advantage statistically negligible. But factor in the increased competition level and the physicality of the postseason, and thus far, the UNDER is 34-31 (52.31 percent). That's almost a profitable basketball pick already.
Put the Golden State Warriors on the floor, and the UNDER looks even better. People see the Warriors as the No. 1 offensive team in the league – which they are, if you look at their 110.0 points per game during the regular season. But Golden State slips to second in efficiency at 109.7 points per 100 possessions. And the Warriors were also the most efficient defensive team in the NBA at 98.2 points allowed per 100 possessions. That difference between expectation and reality is why the UNDER is 50-41-1 (54.95 percent) for the Dubs this year.
All well and good, but the Rockets are a special basketball team in their own right. They're arguably the most analytics-driven program in pro sports, and the analytics say to jack up 3-pointers all night long. Houston attempted 32.7 treys per game during the regular season, way more than anyone else – Golden State was fourth at 27.0. So while the Rockets “only” scored 103.9 points per game, they scored 1.25 points per shot, just barely behind the Warriors at 1.26 points. That's enough to drive the OVER to a 49-45 mark (52.12 percent), even though Houston ranked sixth in defensive efficiency at 100.5 points allowed per 100 possessions.
Don't Hack Me, Bro
This over/under quandary only gets deeper when you consider that the two teams split their totals down the middle at 2-2 when they met during the regular season. However, we are dealing with one of the largest totals either team has seen all year. And once the total gets above 200 points, the UNDER is 37-31 (54.41 percent) for the Rockets this year, and 43-37 (53.75 percent) for the Warriors.
But didn't Houston just send the OVER to a 6-1 record in the last round against the Los Angeles Clippers, with totals climbing as high as 219.5 points? Yes, but this time, the Rockets won't be stopping the clock by intentionally fouling DeAndre Jordan. Sure, they could decide to use the Hack-a-Shaq tactic on Andrew Bogut (52.4 percent), but he's not as awful a free-throw shooter as Jordan (39.7 percent), and Bogut doesn't play nearly as many minutes per game (23.6 to Jordan's 34.4). If anything, that Rockets-Clippers series has just added to the inflated expectations for this round. Let's see how high Tuesday's total gets by the time they tip off.
Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER at Pinnacle Sports