Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (-9, 211 o/u)
All things considered, the Golden State Warriors (73-9, 39-2 Home) had a pretty smooth run through the regular season en route to an NBA-record 73 wins. Even though they lead the Houston Rockets (41-41, 18-23 Away) three games to one in their best of seven first-round series, the same can’t be said of their playoff run – however long it lasts.
For at least the next two weeks, the Warriors will take to the floor without reigning MVP Steph Curry, starting in Game 5 tonight at ORACLE Arena in Oakland (10:30 PM Eastern).
Curry suffered a knee injury part way through Game 4 after slipping on a wet patch on the court. It’s being called a sprain, and the point guard will be reevaluated in two weeks’ time. Given the awkward-looking nature of the injury, the Warriors’ brass is just happy the timeframe isn’t longer.
“From our perspective, it’s relatively good news,” general manager Bob Myers told ESPN. “Clearly we don’t want to be here getting MRIs at this point of the season, especially someone of Steph’s stature. … But mechanically the knee is intact, so that’s good.”
Shaun Livingston will take Curry’s place in the starting lineup, but it will be up to shooting guard Klay Thompson and power forward Draymond Green to step up and replace Curry’s production.
They did just that in the second half of Game 4. After going into the break knotted at 56, the Warriors poured in 41 third-quarter points and outscored the Rockets 65-38 in the second half to pull away for a 121-94 win.
Thompson led the team with 23 points on the night, while Green added 18 points, eight boards, and six assists.
For Houston, the second half of Game 4 was just another disappointing performance in a season full of them. Unlike the West’s other low seeds – Memphis and Dallas – the Rockets don’t have injury woes to blame for their struggles. The team is healthy, and markedly similar to the squad that reached the conference finals last year.
Yet they barely cracked the playoff field this year, and have looked hapless for much of the first four games. Chemistry is clearly a problem for JB Bickerstaff’s team.
After scoring 35 points and nailing the game-winner in Game 3, James Harden – who finished second only to Curry in scoring this season – had an uncharacteristically low 18 points in Game 4. He’s now averaging 24.5 PPG and 37.7-percent shooting in the playoffs, a far cry from the 29 PPG and 43.9-percent he put up in the regular season.
The Rockets, as a team, have been lousy on defense and predictable on offense. That won’t cut it against the best team in the NBA, whether Curry is in the lineup or not. However, a nine-point spread in an elimination game sans Curry is a slap in the face to Houston.
Pick: Warriors SU; Rockets +9.
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].)