Those anticipating a rematch of last year’s Western Conference final between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets will have to wait a few more days.
That’s because the Los Angeles Clippers, the West’s No. 8 seed, did the unthinkable on Wednesday night in an upset win over the Warriors in Game 5. The series now moves back to Los Angeles for Game 6.
Lou Williams Sparks Los Angeles Clippers
Lou Williams, who was clutch down the stretch of the Game 5 victory and poured in 33 points, said the Warriors made a mistake “looking ahead” to a potential second-round showdown with Houston.
Williams was referencing a quote from Golden State shooting guard Klay Thompson, who noted Sunday that the Rockets were up 3-0 in their series against the Utah Jazz and that the Warriors needed to finish off the Clippers quickly so Houston didn’t gain additional rest. That clearly backfired, and now the Warriors must work even harder to top the pesky Clippers.
And what about those pesky Clippers? Do they actually have a chance to dethrone the two-time defending champions and current dynasty as a lowly No. 8 seed?
Oddsmakers aren’t buying it in setting NBA betting lines, understandably reasoning that L.A. still needs two straight victories to pull off the upset. The Clippers are +1800 in to win the series, ironically a bigger underdog than they were to begin the series at +1600.
The reasoning is simple: The Warriors haven’t lost three straight games since November, and haven’t lost three straight in the postseason since LeBron James and the Cavs upset them in the 2016 NBA Finals .
And while they’re no longer looking past the Clippers like they might have done in Game 5, the Warriors don’t seem all that concerned. Kevin Durant, who had a playoff career-high 45 points in the loss, said the Warriors’ issues have been more mental than tactical, which means they should come out ready to play in Game 6 on Friday.
Then again, the Clippers were 26-15 at home this season – and won 11 of their last 14 games in Staples Center to finish the regular season. And if they can force a Game 7, they’ve proven twice that they can win in Oracle Arena. Buckle up. This is about to get interesting.
Clippers pay tribute to longtime broadcaster Ralph Lawler, who staved off retirement with Game 5 win over Warriors— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) April 25, 2019
Lou Williams: "Bingo!"
Montrezl Harrell: Bingo!!!
Patrick Beverley: "Oh me, oh my!" pic.twitter.com/XdH884htIK
NBA Western Conference Title Odds Shift
The Warriors were suffering the second-worst playoff upset since 1991 – they were 15-point favorites – on the same night Houston eliminated the Utah Jazz with a Game 5 victory.
Mike D’Antoni’s group will now get some additional rest before (presumably) matching up with the Warriors early next week, when they’ll be underdogs but also a popular pick to pull off the upset. Oddsmakers have taken notice of the two paths both these teams are on, with Houston dominating a solid Utah team and the Warriors struggling against the Clippers.
The Warriors began the postseason as -335 favorites to win the Western Conference. But losing two home games in Round 1 to an No. 8 seed, combined with DeMarcus Cousins’ quad injury, has shrunk their odds to just -240. The Rockets, on the other hand, have shifted from +600 at the start of the postseason to just +290 to win the West.
The Rockets also have some momentum and confidence on their side. After beating the Warriors twice in the regular season in three tries, the Rockets say they “want to face” Golden State in Round 2.
It’s a classic case of being careful what you wish for, but it’s clear the Rockets smell blood in the water, especially after last year’s West final.