Now we’ve got a series, NBA Betting fans.
James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets took it to the Golden State Warriors on both Saturday and Monday, earning wins in Games 3 and 4 to tie the series 2-2 heading back to Oakland for Game 5 on Wednesday.
Houston was favored in both those games but it was still an impressive showing from the underdogs. The Warriors arrived in Houston for Game 3 leading 2-0 and -670 favorites to win the series.
Now they head back home with the series tied and their odds to advance just -250.
Meanwhile, Houston has more than cut their odds in half with the pair of wins, going from +500 to +205.
It’s the hottest series in basketball, and there’s a real argument that the winner of this one will be the favorites to win it all.
The Warriors are the Obvious Play
Games 3 and 4 are about as bad as you’ll see them play, and after needing six games to beat the LA Clippers, there are concerns about the Warriors’ current state. The Rockets certainly look like a team ready to pounce, and they’ve been the aggressor.
But consider that the Warriors got 33 combined points from Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on 33 percent shooting in Game 3 and still took Houston to overtime.
In Game 4, the Warriors shot 8 of 33 from beyond the arc (24.2%), missed seven free throws and got 18 combined points from Thompson and Andre Iguodala…and still had a chance to send that game to overtime in the final seconds.
Yes, Houston looks like they’re going to compete in the series. But in those same games they shot 48 percent and hit 18 triples in Game 3, and then made 17 3-pointers in Game 4 and still barely squeaked by with two close victories.
Golden State hasn’t played well and yet they were a couple shots away from sweeping this series.
So how have the Warriors stayed in games despite pedestrian performances?
Here’s the other part of the equation. Kevin Durant has been the best player in the postseason – apologies to Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Anteteokounmpo and Harden. Durant is averaging 35.4 points and is shooting 52/43/91.
That’s right, he’s going 50/40/90 in the playoffs. The last players to do that while averaging 25 points per game were Kawhi Leonard (2017), Dirk Nowitzki (2010), Chris Mullin (1994), Reggie Miller (1993), John Stockton (1989) and Larry Bird (1986).
None of them averaged the 35 points Durant is averaging. He’s a man possessed, and NBA Finals betting fans won't forget he’s the two-time reigning Finals MVP.
There’s No Place Like Oracle
Houston held serve on its own floor. But the beauty of homecourt advantage is that it requires your opponent to win one road game to win the series.
Both Games 1 and 2 at Oracle Arena were close, but Golden State shot better and fed off the crowd to earn close victories.
This postseason the Rockets have a league-best 13.8 net rating at home, going 5-0 against the Jazz and Warriors. On the road that net rating shrinks all the way down to -6.5, ninth best among the 16 qualifying postseason teams.
The Warriors have had their own issues at home in the postseason – their 2.7 net rating is ninth among playoff teams – but this is still a team that is 22-3 at home in the postseason over the last three seasons.
If there’s a bet to be made, it’s on Golden State continuing to hold serve at home.
History is on Golden State’s Side
Of course it helps to have homecourt advantage when series are tied 2-2 and effectively become a three-game series. But that advantage also means you’re likely the more talented team.
That’s what the Warriors are hoping for, and history says they’re in good shape.
Game 4 is a huge swing game when the lower-seeded team leads 2-1, as is the case in both of today's matchups. In 2-2-1-1-1 series since 1984, the higher seed wins 2-2 series 79% of the time, but just 11% of the time when they fall behind 3-1.— Kevin Pelton (@kpelton) May 5, 2019
The Rockets are a talented team, and their odds of winning the series are closer to 33 percent. But in the end, this Warriors team touts four All-Stars, a pair of former MVPs and Finals MVPs and has all the experience in the world.
The Rockets are putting up a fight, and the series could very well go seven games, but the Warriors remain the easy choice at -250 to advance to their fifth straight Western Conference Finals.
They’re just too good and will pull it together when they need to, beginning Wednesday at home in Game 5.