Houston’s season ended at the hands of Golden State a year ago, a fateful Game 7 that saw the Warriors advance to the NBA Finals and win yet another title. The Rockets were the #1 seed a year ago but Golden State has returned to the throne this year. The Warriors struggled more than most expected in Round 1 vs. the Clippers, but are still -5 favorites in the April 28th NBA playoffs free pick. Can the Rockets steal Game 1 on the road, as the Warriors did to them a year ago?
Houston Clamping Down On Defense
Everybody knows the potency of the Rockets offense but it was their defense that was the biggest key to advancing past Utah in round 1. Houston held the Jazz to under 101 points in 4 of 5 games, including a respectable 104 ppg average at Salt Lake City. Aside from a combined 269 points Houston and Golden State scored in an OT game during the regular season, the Rockets have held GSW to 106, 112, and 86 points during their other three matchups.
Obviously James Harden is the utmost important piece for Houston to advance in this round and cover the number (or win) in Game 1. Harden struggled a bit vs. the Jazz shooting just 37% from the field and 35% from three. Utah had a solid defensive game plan vs. Harden, but Golden State doesn’t have that same prowess on that end of the court. Chris Paul averaged 23.5 ppg the last two contests vs. the Warriors in the regular season. Paul missed Games 6 and 7 of the Conference Finals a year ago and wants to make up for lost time in the rematch.
Do We See a Different Warriors Team Here?
It appeared Golden State struggled in their first round series with the Clippers but ultimately the outcome was never really in doubt. Round 2 vs. Houston is a whole new ball game however and look for the Warriors to be amped up for games that finally “matter.” One thing that is a bit concerning is that Golden State was 1-2 at home vs. the Clippers in Round 1, when they had won 19 of 20 postseason games at Oracle prior to that. The Rockets won both games at Oakland during the regular season as well.
You also have to wonder how healthy Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are for the April 28th NBA playoffs free pick as both are listed as questionable with ankle injuries. Both tweaked ankle injuries Friday vs.the Clippers, but Curry is at least listed as the starter on Sunday. Can Kevin Durant single-handedly put GSW on his back for Game 1? Durant had 50 and 45 points the last two vs. the Clippers
April 28th NBA Playoffs Free Pick Betting
A lot of things point to the Rockets having a great chance at the outright win, let alone covering the +5 points. Houston won both games at Oracle this season, have two extra days of rest, and face a Warriors team with injuries in their back court. Normally in this situation, a contrarian play on the defending NBA champs would seem like a no-brainer as 60% of bettors are on Houston…and it is.
NBA Free Pick: Golden State Warriors -5