Update: The Warriors say that Kevin Durant could return to game action before the end of the regular season, reportedly in the last three games.
Some big NBA matchups dot the midweek schedule in this lull before the NCAA Final Four. Let’s check on Golden State’s tour of Texas as we lay the foundation for the coming pro playoffs.
Golden State reminds Houston who’s boss
Golden State wasn’t necessarily in championship form Tuesday night during its 113-106 win at Houston. The Warriors were just 11 of 41 on three-pointers. Still, they led by as many as 22 points before surviving a mini-Rockets run on the way to victory. A few of the key stats…
Golden State (plus 1.5) 113 Houston 106
Two-Point Shooting: Golden State 72%, Houston 52%
Free Throws: Golden State 12/16, Houston 35/39
Rebounds: Golden State 44, Houston 38
Estimated Possession Count: 102
Very odd game. Neither team could throw a trey into the ocean. Houston was 5 of 31. So, the two combined for 16 of 72…which is really going to get pundits who hate all the three-pointers in the modern game yacking. When these offenses attacked the basket…Houston’s defense backed off while Golden State’s fouled. Golden State’s shooters are GREAT when you back off, so they were 34 of 47 on deuces. Houston was GREAT tonight at shooting free throws, where they were 35 of 39 (despite being fractionally below average for the season from the line).
Maybe you could say Golden State was in championship form on defense. The Warriors held James Harden to just 5 of 20 on the floor (1 of 9 on treys). They know he’s the guy they’d have to contain in a head-to-head playoff series. They more than contained him.
Updated Western Playoff Picture
2…San Antonio (2.5 games behind, host GS Wed)
3…Houston (9 games back)
Let’s stop here because those are the three teams folks are most interested in betting in the Western race. Houston is basically locked into the #3 seed barring multiple miracles. There’s a big moat between them and #2 in front, and #4 behind. Golden State visits San Antonio in a back-to-back Wednesday evening. It’s unclear at press time whether or not the Warriors will rest some starters. If Houston was -1.5 vs. rested Golden State, the Spurs are likely to be within arm’s reach of pick-em as well if it’s starters vs. starters.
(Though, Golden State has teased a big announcement regarding the status of Kevin Durant for early Wednesday. Keep tuned to VSiN programming throughout the afternoon for line reports on Warriors/Spurs in this potential Western Conference championship preview.)
Moving to the next four spots in the West, whose placeholders were all off Tuesday, but are set for action Wednesday (tonight’s opponent in parenthesis)…
4…Utah 14.5 behind Golden State (at Sacramento)
5…LA Clippers 16 back (vs. Washington)
6…OKC 17 back (at Orlando)
7…Memphis 19.5 back (vs. Indiana)
Portland and Denver are fighting it out for the #8 spot. Both entered their Tuesday night head-to-head encounter with a won-lost record of 35-38 . Portland won 122-113 behind a special kind of "triple-double" for Jusuf Nurkic. He more than tripled his scoring average and doubled his rebound average with 33 points and 16 rebounds in 33 minutes. Portland has covered seven of its last eight games, while Denver is still 7-3 ATS its last 10.
Elsewhere in the NBA Tuesday night
Minnesota (plus 4) beat Indiana 115-114. Not exactly a defensive struggle in a game that went Over by 22 points. Indiana won two-point shooting 55% to 49%, but the visiting Timberwolves had four additional treys and three extra free throws. Minnesota ends a six-game loss and non-cover streak with the win. Indiana is now 3-7 ATS its last 10 outings.
Milwaukee (plus 4) beat Charlotte 118-108. Charlotte’s defense was unimaginably invisible in this one. Milwaukee made 73% of their two-point shots (32 of 44) while also getting enough open looks at the arc to drain 14 of 30. The Bucks also won rebounding 42-31. You see a score like that, and you imagine an up-tempo game. There were just 91 possessions, which is very slow by 2017 standards. Milwaukee moves more solidly into the Eastern playoff mix at 38-36 with the win. Charlotte’s defensive no-show drops them to 33-41, closer to the verge of elimination.
Miami (-3) beat Detroit 98-97 on a tip-in at the buzzer. Detroit got off the deck to at least cover the spread against previously red hot Miami. We documented the Pistons’ recent slide yesterday. The loss drops them 2.5 games behind the Heat for what is currently the eighth and final Eastern spot. Detroit is now seven games below .500 with seven to play. Miami is just two games below break-even. (Note, there were also 91 possessions in this game, to give you a sense of a more “normal” scoreboard sum for that slow pace)
Atlanta (-9.5) beat Phoenix 95-91. As ugly as pro basketball can get. The teams combined for 34 turnovers and a 13 of 58 mark on three-pointers. This was the most run-and-gun game of the early evening at 104 possessions, yet it couldn’t get out of the 180’s while staying Under the market price by 31 points. The Suns continue to start a lineup of youngsters, but did at least cover only their second game in the last nine outings. Atlanta fails to cover, and is now 2-6 ATS its last eight. Atlanta looks safely in the playoffs at 38-36, but hasn’t performed like a playoff caliber team very often lately. That really sticks out like a sore thumb if you review recent Suns’ results.
Philadelphia (plus 4.5) beat Brooklyn 106-101. And you thought THIS was going to be the ugly game of the night! It was still pretty ugly with 29 turnovers and a combined 19 of 65 on treys. The Sixers move to 9-2 ATS their last 11 games with the cover. Brooklyn is still 9-4 ATS its last 13 even with the failure.
Washington (-9) beat the LA Lakers 119-108 thanks to a massive 37-13 win in the fourth quarter. From down 10 entering the final stanza to an 11-point win! That's three straight covers for the Wizards.
Georgia Tech and TCU advance to NIT Finals
Cinderella earned a trip to the NIT ball at Madison Square Garden, but tripped over the steps on the way to the dance floor. Cal Bakersfield fell behind early and never really made it interesting against Georgia Tech in Game One of the NIT Final Four twinbill.
We mentioned yesterday that Georgia Tech emphasized the inside game. You’ll see in the stats that Bakersfield largely bent to Tech’s will.
Georgia Tech (-3.5) 76, Cal Bakersfield 61
Two-Point emphasis: Bakersfield 62%, Georgia Tech 73%
Two-Point shooting: Bakersfield 35%, Georgia Tech 48%
Free Throws: Bakersfield 11/14, Georgia Tech 19/26
Tech powered its way to a superior inside shooting percentage, and then earned an extra eight points on trips to the free throw line. The short favorite was able to coast despite shooting 5 of 15 on treys. Bakersfield’s 8 of 23 wasn’t nearly enough to make things interesting.
We should also mention that Bakersfield lost the turnover category 15-7. Great job by Tech using a very clean, old school basketball approach to overpower an outmatched opponent.
In the nightcap…
TCU (-2.5) 68, Central Florida 53
Two-Point Emphasis: TCU 67%, C. Florida 56%
Two-Point shooting: TCU 48%, C. Florida 41%
Rebounds: TCU 43, C. Florida 35
Another example of inside play ruling the day. Threes cancelled out, with trey-heavy Central Florida only making 6 of 25, compared to 7 of 20 for TCU. The Horned Frogs made six extra deuces as they gradually grinded out a victory.
Georgia Tech and TCU will meet in the championship game Thursday night. TCU will be a slight market favorite.
Projected NCAA Championship lines
Through the new week, VSiN programming has been discussing early betting lines for all four possible NCAA Championship games Monday night. If you missed those reports:
North Carolina is -1 over Gonzaga
North Carolina is -7 over South Carolina
Gonzaga is -3 over Oregon
Oregon is -3.5 over South Carolina
Those are consistent with the projected market Power Ratings we ran earlier this week here in VSiN City. (Actually, South Point opened North Carolina -8, but early money brought that down to match the prior market estimate.)
North Carolina (85), Gonzaga (84), Oregon (81), South Carolina (78)
You can bet any of the four possible matchups right now at the South Point. If it turns out your matchup of choice doesn’t take place, you get a refund. This is very helpful for tourists in Las Vegas just for the weekend. If you want to bet a certain team in the Monday night finals no matter what, take care of business now and settle up your next time through.
Or, of course, bet your team on the futures board too (but, you’re not refunded if they don’t make the finals!).
Current odds to win the title at the South Point
North Carolina 3-2 (40% to win)
Gonzaga 8-5 (38% to win)
Oregon 5-1 (17% to win)
South Carolina 8-1 (11% to win)
As we’ve mentioned before, percentages to win at sports books add up to more than 100% because the house advantage is factored into the price. Just a hair’s breadth separates #1 seeds North Carolina and Gonzaga at the moment.
That wraps up the Wednesday VSin City newsletter. Back with you Thursday to preview the NIT Championship showdown and review key stats from a busy 10-game schedule in the NBA.
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