The Golden State Warriors completed the greatest regular season in NBA history recently, going 73-9. They’ve cruised through the early part of their first-round series with the Houston Rockets, too.
However, in Golden State’s Game 1 win, reigning (and soon-to-be two-time) MVP Stephen Curry suffered an ankle (or is it a foot?) injury. He sat out Game 2 on Monday and it’s not clear how long he’ll be sidelined.
Does his uncertain status create value elsewhere in the NBA?
It’s possible the Warriors know they don’t need Curry to get by Houston and are resting him for precautionary reasons. But if he’s going to be impacted by the injury long-term, the Warriors’ quest to repeat just got a whole lot tougher, and the sportsbooks and betting public are well aware of that reality.
When it was announced that Curry would miss Game 2, the point spread moved from 13.5 all the way to 8.5. Golden State won 115-106, eking out a cover. But the stats tell a concerning story for the Warriors. The Rockets outscored Golden State from three point range in the game, only the ninth time all-season they lost the battle from behind the arc. The Warriors as a team went eight for 23 in the game (34.8-percent), well down from their league-best 41.6-percent regular season clip.
The average Golden State game this year saw the team win by 10.8 points. But that changed substantially when Curry was out of the lineup. Steph missed three games this year, and the team managed to go 2-1 without him, but the loss was a 23-point blowout to Dallas, and the wins (at Houston and versus Atlanta) both had four-point margins.
Last season, the Warriors were 0-2 without Curry and 67-11 with him.
Golden State is 10/13 to win the NBA Title and 4/9 to capture the West. If Curry’s injury is significant, betting on somebody else to win the Western Conference or NBA Finals has value.
When deciding who to bet on, the question becomes: is San Antonio that much better than everybody else? If so, bet the Spurs at 4/1 to win the title.
If you believe the Cavs can compete with San Antonio, go with the Spurs at 3/1 to win the Western Conference. If you think the Thunder or Clippers can compete with the Spurs, bet them all. Put three-quarters of your cash on the Spurs, and the rest on the other team or teams you like. At 21/2 and 20/1 to come out of the West, OKC and LA can be hedged easily.
The Warriors scenario feels a lot like a horse running for the Triple Crown. They are a huge favorite at the Belmont Stakes, and that means everybody else is worthy of a wager. (Up until last year, betting against Triple Crown contenders was a winning tactic.)
If Curry is healthy, Golden State should win the title. But right now, that “if” feels big enough to put money elsewhere.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)