Sizing Up The Golden State Warriors
During the Golden State Warriors run to history this regular season the oddsmakers had them reasonably well-pegged. Even though Golden State won a league-record 73 games, their ATS record was 43-36-3. That's not a bad bet, but it's not a great one. But since Steph Curry went out with his knee injury in the playoffs, the Warriors have won and covered in four of five games.
Curry's status remains up in the air for the rest of his team's current series with Portland - since Golden State has won the first two, there's no reason to rush him back. And given that Curry has already re-injured on his knee on one comeback attempt, handicappers have to be prepared to evaluate how the Warriors will perform without their star or with him at limited effectiveness. At least we have five Curry-less games to evaluate and determine whether Golden State's initial success is sustainable.
Here's the rundown of those games...
Game 2 vs. Houston (-8.5) 115-106, Over 211
In something that would prove to be a pattern, the Warriors lost their traditional three-point shooting edge without the brilliant Curry, but outshot the Rockets on field goal percentage 49-44. They got 16 points from Shaun Livingston, who took Curry's place in the lineup, along with 34 from Klay Thompson and 18 from Andre Iguodala.
Game 3 vs Houston (-3.5) 97-97 Under 215.5
The one loss went down on the first game of the series played on the road, with the Warriors again struggling from behind the arc (6-for-25). But the Rockets weren't much better. What really hurt was that Golden State did not rebound effectively. On an individual note, Thompson was held to 17, Green was in single digits and the team relied on reserve Marreese Speights to keep them in it with 22 off the bench.
Game 5 vs. Houston (-9) 114-81 Under 213
Curry had come back in Game 4 before re-injuring the knee in a Golden State win. In this game Houston played down to their reputation and basically mailed the game in. Even though the Warriors were again outrebounded, they moved the basketball and had thirty assists as a team. Another bench hero emerged, this time Brandon Rush with 15 points.
Game 1 vs. Portland (-9.5) 118-106 Over 210.5
The rebounding problem went away and Golden State hit the glass with a vengeance, outrebounding Portland 55-40, keyed by forward Harrison Barnes and center Andrew Bogut each getting twelve boards. Green was brilliant, with a triple-double and Livingston continued to play very steady basketball with 12 points.
Game 2 vs. Portland (-9) 110-99 Under 212
Another strong rebounding effort bore fruit in a stunning fourth quarter, as Golden State turned an 11-point deficit into an 11-point win. The Warriors outrebounded the Blazers 48-39.
That's the game-by-game look. If you step back and take a look at the aggregate numbers, certain patterns become even clearer. Golden State is no longer a good three-point shooting team. In the five games without Curry they're 46-for-134 for 34 percent. That's down from 42 percent during the regular season and while the Warriors current rate from behind the arc isn't bad, it no longer gives them an edge.
Golden State has made up for it by winning the battles inside the three-point line and that's epitomized by the efficient play of Livingston. Curry's replacement is shooting 37-for-70 from the field in the postseason for 53%. Noteworthy is that he's attempted zero three-point shots. That's a marked shift at one spot in the lineup. Livingston also takes care of the basketball with 34 assists against only 8 turnovers in the playoffs, a dazzling number.
The Warriors have been able to replace the spectacular play of Curry with a more quiet efficiency and keep winning while covering the spread. The immediate questions for handicappers are whether Portland will respond like Houston did and come out hard in Game 3. Golden State is (-3) on Saturday night.
Or is it possible that the Warriors broke the Blazers' spirit with that dominant fourth quarter in Game 2? If that's the case, we've seen what happened to the Rockets when they quit - it was an easy cover for Golden State. Portland is also a perimeter team that Golden State can win inside against and continue their efficient play.
There are long-term questions about what happens if Curry can't come back at full strength. It's one thing for Golden State to change its identity and be a value bet against Houston or Portland. It's another to do it against San Antonio, Oklahoma City or Cleveland in the rounds ahead. That's something I'm continuing to evaluate. What I can tell you is that I've got a strong opinion on the games on tap this weekend in the NBA playoffs, and the Golden State-Portland game has been very much in that discussion. Between the playoffs and the Kentucky Derby we'll have a profitable weekend on everything from hoops to horses!