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Dan Dobish

Basketball Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Chapter Four

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


The National Basketball Association had a pair of Game 7s in the conference finals and it appeared we just might see the string of NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors snapped at three years in a row. After one half of basketball on Monday it appeared it would be the Houston Rockets canceling the yearly battle. The defending champs were on the ropes heading into the second half, but then they showed up and exhibited their championship mettle. Let's get started!


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Golden State Warriors 101, Houston Rockets 92:
The Rockets had two chances to close out the two-time champs. In Game 6, Houston held a 61-51 lead at halftime on the road. The third quarter was mighty unkind to them, as the Warriors rained in threes to turn a 10-point deficit into a seven-point lead. In the fourth quarter, the Warriors outscored the Rockets 31-9 to wind up with a 29-point victory. Surely the Rockets learned from that situation and would fare much better at home, right? Wrong.

 

It was like déjà vu in Houston, as the Rockets fired out to a 24-19 lead, prompting Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to say it was "one of the worst we've ever played." It got a lot worse. The Rockets held a 54-43 lead at the break, as Eric Gordon blew by the defense for a finger roll at the buzzer to give the team a double-digit lead. The Rockets were looking to right the ship after falling apart in Oakland. But the third quarter was like an instant replay. The Warriors were on the ropes and it appeared that despite the fact Chris Paul (hamstring) was on the sidelines, Houston was on its way to a date with LeBron James and the Cavs. Wrong.

 

It only took the Warriors seven minutes and 31 seconds to erase the 11-point lead, tying it up 61-61 on a Kevin Durant triple. Then they started working on building a lead. The home team helped them out, missing 27 consecutive 3-point shots at one point before P.J. Tucker stopped the bleeding. What an ugly second half when it appeared the Rockets were on the verge of unseating the champs. Durant helped the team punch its ticket to the NBA Finals, his second straight trip since joining the team, by dumping in 34 points, five rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. Stephen Curry was up to his usual tricks, too, dropping in seven 3-points while flirting with a triple-double. He ended up with 27 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and four steals while adding a blocked shot over 44 minutes.

 

Kevon Looney shook off a sore left toe to play, posting four points with five rebounds across 17 minutes in a start. He was the only starter to finish with single-digit points, as Klay Thompson was good for 19 points, including three 3-pointers, while Draymond Green posted 10 points with 13 rebounds, five assists, a blocked shot and a steal. The Rockets were taking advantage of a lack of strong defense in the middle, as it seemed Clint Capela could do whatever he wanted in the first half. Then, the Rockets got away from that plan. Capela was a big part of the second half, however, as Golden State played 'Hack-a-Clint', sending the errant free-thow shooter to the line frequently. He converted just two of his six attempts from the charity stripe, as Kerr did a good job in his chess match with Mike D'Antoni.

 

It will be a long offseason for Trevor Ariza, as he misfired on all 12 of his field-goal attempts, including all nine of his 3-pointer tries. Gerald Green will also have plenty of time to think about his terrible shooting performance off the bench, as he hit just one of his seven tries from the field to end up with three points over 21 minutes. While James Harden went for 32 points, six rebounds, six assist and four steals in his 43 minutes, 'The Beard' ended up just 2-of-13 from behind the perimeter while turning it over five times. Gordon was decent early on but he ended up 2-of-12 from behind the arc. Houston ended up an awful 7-of-44 from downtown, or 15.9 percent. They went ice cold when it mattered most, and they'll have to wait at least one more year if they're going to unseat the champs.

 

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Looking ahead:
The sportsbooks in Vegas do not seem to be giving LeBron and the Eastern Conference champs much chance. Golden State is installed as a heavy favorite (-1000) heading into the Finals. In other words, you need to risk $1000 just to win $100. In the previous three meetings, Golden State was -220 in 2015, -215 in 2016 when the Cavs beat them and -240 in last season's meeting. The Cavs are +650 heading into the fourth installment of this series, meaning you need to risk a C-note for a $650 return. The Cavs are the biggest underdogs in the Finals since at least 2002 when the Los Angeles Lakers vanquished the then New Jersey Nets.

 

In two regular season meetings this year the Warriors dominated the Cavs. Golden State won 99-92 on Christmas Day as a five-point favorite, and they won the rematch on Jan. 15 in Cleveland by a 118-108 score while laying 5 1/2 points. Both battles hit the 'under', something which was a frequent happening in Golden State's series with Houston. The under hit in each of the final five games of the Western Conference Finals, and the under is 9-1 over the past 10 for the Dubs. For Cleveland, the under was 5-2 in the seven-game series against the Celtics. The Cavs covered four of the final five games in the series. In nine road games in the playoffs the under is 6-3. If Cleveland is going to make noise, they will have to win on the road, something they've done just four times in nine playoff away games. They have also covered just four times in nine road games in the postseason.

 

The Cavs have the advantage of 24 more hours of rest, but they're just 1-6 against the spread (ATS) in their past seven instances when playing on three or more days of rest. Golden State hasn't been much better on two days of rest, as they're just 4-10 ATS in their past 14. The Dubs covered just one of their final seven regular-season games against Eastern Conference foes, too. However, Golden State is 6-2 ATS in the past eight against Cleveland, including 4-1 ATS in the past five meetings at Oracle Arena. The under is 8-2-2 in the past 12 battles in Oakland, with the favorite cashing in six of the previous eight meetings. Vegas feels very strongly that Steph, KD and the rest of the Dubs will add another trophy to their display case, but are you betting against the King?

 




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