Stephen Curry scored 40 points on Saturday, and the game still went UNDER. No point in changing horses for Monday's Game 4 NBA pick on the total between Warriors and Rockets.
Jason’s record as of May 23: 78-81-5 ATS, 19-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
Have we ever mentioned how much we like the playoffs? For the first time since the 2014-15 NBA season began, we're back at .500 with our NBA picks against the total. And it's all thanks to the postseason, where the UNDER has cashed in all five games of the Conference Finals as we go to press. Tighter defense, tougher competition, softer betting lines. Life is good.
Sadly, the Western Finals might be coming to an end very soon. The Houston Rockets are already on the brink of elimination; they'll try to extend this series to a fifth game when they host the Golden State Warriors Monday night (9:00 p.m., ESPN). There's a total of 213.5 points on the NBA odds board, down from 216.5 points in Saturday's Game 3, which Golden State won 115-80 in a cakewalk. Will that be enough to finally cash in the OVER?
Seven out of 10 doctors don't agree. Our early consensus reports show 71 percent of bettors sticking with the UNDER, and as much as we like a good contrary bet here at the home office, we're with the majority in this case. After what happened on Saturday night, we can see two things happening: Either the Rockets come out flat again and fail to keep up, or they put the clamps back on defense and prevent Golden State from running up the score.
It's possible that both teams go ballistic on offense, of course. Maybe Stephen Curry will score another 40 points, like he did on Saturday. Maybe James Harden will score 38 points, like he did in Game 2. But they'll need a lot more points than that to get OVER the posted total, and there hasn't been enough “secondary” scoring to get the job done, especially on Houston's part.
On Second Thought, Keep Shooting Long 2s
A quick reminder: Golden State was the top defensive team in the NBA during the regular season, allowing just 98.2 points per 100 possessions. In the postseason, the Warriors have allowed the exact same 98.2 points, playing smashmouth basketball against the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies before locking down the Rockets. Even with Curry going off like a Roman candle, the UNDER is 10-2-1 for the Dubs in these playoffs.
Golden State has taken it up a notch in the Western final. While Harden has had his moments, he's also been harassed more often than a waitress at a 1960s diner. The Warriors have been successful at cutting off Harden's pick-and-roll drives, forcing him to take plenty of those nasty contested long 2's that defy sound analytics. That didn't cut it in Game 3; Harden was held to 17 points on 3-of-16 shooting. Yeesh.
Harden will likely have a better shooting night on Monday, but at the other end, we shouldn't expect another 40 points from Curry. He's only done that four times this entire season. Something closer to his 29.9-point playoff average is a lot more likely. A few missed threes is all it would take for Curry to regress to the mean; he's shooting 58.1 percent from long range in this series. That's just not normal.
There are a few tweaks Houston can make to improve its perimeter defense. Swingman Kostas Papanikolaou (plus-0.7 DBPM) made a brief appearance in Game 3, and while his offense has been disappointing (minus-3.0 OBPM), the NBA rookie was a strong defensive presence back in the Euroleague. But we're splitting hairs at this point. All we need Monday is more of the same for the UNDER to make it four in a row. Bring it on, and may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take UNDER at 5Dimes