NBA West Finals Game 3 Preview

SURPRISINGLY COMPETITIVE ROCKETS MUST WIN SATURDAY AGAINST COMPLACENT GOLDEN STATE

Even though the Houston Rockets have been much more competitive than the market expected so far in the Western Conference Finals against the top seeded Golden State Warriors...they will get swept in this series if they don't win at least one of two home games over the Memorial Day Weekend.

They certainly seem capable of getting a home win...

*Houston (+10.5) almost stole a win in a 110-106 loss in Game One
*Houston (+9.5) then REALLY almost stole a win in a 99-98 loss in Game Two

Put those on neutral courts, and we may have a split. Put them in Houston...and who knows?

The problem is, Golden State has slid back into a complacent mindset of "let's do what it takes to win" rather than "let's play to our full potential and win a blowout." That makes it tough to cover spreads as a 10-point favorite...but much easier at lines near pick-em. The market has opened Game Three just above pick-em...which could make the Warriors value for the first time in this series.

If we see the Golden State that won at Memphis 101-84 and 108-95...then the Warriors are going to have a great weekend followed by a LONG layoff before the finals begin early next month. But, if this version that keeps trying to make highlight reel passes and wrist-posed three-pointers keeps goofing around...who knows?

Let's review what happened in Game Two...when Houston had the ball in the final seconds down one, but was unable to get off a shot.

GAME TWO STATS
Golden State 99, Houston 98
Shooting Pct: Houston 46%, Golden State 53%
Three-Pointers: Houston 7/23, Golden State 8/24
Free Throws: Houston 13/19, Golden State 9/13
Rebounds: Houston 39, Golden State 39
Turnovers: Houston 10, Golden State 16
Vegas Line: Golden State by 9.5, total of 219

Let's start with what a low scoring game this was. You don't think that at first blush about a 99-98 final score. But, the Vegas total was up near 220. These are the two fastest teams in the NBA. Yet, after a high scoring first quarter...it might as well have been one of those New York/Miami games from the Ewing era. Slowing down Golden State actually makes them more turnover prone because they're not used to passing in traffic.

Note that Golden State:
*Was only 33% on three-pointers (where a low percentage always turns them mortal)
*Lost the turnover category handily
*Didn't get to the free throw line

Sharp shooting inside the arc kept them ahead all night...and ultimately helped them overcome these other weaknesses. But, that clearly wasn't championship basketball...or anything near what we saw in the late serious blowouts of Memphis.

If you watched the game...you got the sense that Golden State has a high ceiling that can put any game out of reach, while Houston is at its ceiling right now in these nailbiters. Handicapping the rest of the series may be all about divining if and when Golden State is going to go into that extra gear.

Saturday's Vegas Line: Golden State by 1.5, total of 216

The market doesn't seem to think that's going to happen Saturday! This line is a relatively surprising development considering the fact that Golden State was basically -10 and -4 in the Memphis series (-10 at home and -4 on the road). It's not like Memphis has a much worse home court than Houston. Both have rabid crowds as series underdogs. Clearly...the market is souring a bit on Golden State, while giving credit to the Rockets for what they've done over their last five games (beating the Clippers, then taking GS to the wire).

Note also that the total has dropped from 220-ish down to just 216.

JIM HURLEY spent hours Friday studying tape of Game Two...going over every second half possession with a fine-tooth comb. He has a very strong inkling about what's going to happen Saturday in Houston that could lead to a double digit cover! You can purchase the final word for Saturday (this game plus a full slate of baseball) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453 Saturday before the early baseball begins.

Our NBA Playoff previews continue tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK with Game Three of Atlanta/Cleveland. That series is on a Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday rotation through the week, while Houston/Golden State goes Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Friday. If either series ends early, we'll try to sneak in some bonus baseball before the League Finals begin in early June.

It's going to be a great Memorial Day Weekend in the world of sports. And, crunch time is NOW in the NBA Conference Championships. When Championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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