Golden State Warriors vs. Houston Rockets Pick
When: Wednesday, March 13th, 2019 – 9:30 pm ET
Where: Toyota Center – Houston, TX
By: Kyle Cash, NBA Basketball Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Rockets -2
Last Night in the NBA
If I had known that Andrew Wiggins wasn’t going to be able to play (or that the Nuggets were going to be 9.5-point favorites), I would’ve reconsidered my position regarding the Nuggets; having a living, breathing soul in the game for Weekend at Wiggins is an automatic upgrade. Even still, I’ll be closing my eyes with the expectation that Denver can seal this thing with a kiss, and we can all go to bed flush with cash.
Elsewhere in the NBA, LeBron James put on an inspiring farewell performance against the 19-50 Bulls, my son Joel and his brother Ben made an inappropriate joke in their post-game presser (and will be grounded), and Jalen Brunson scored 34 points thinking that he was playing against Marquette in the Big East Tournament. Nova Nation, baby. Make us proud.
Jonas Splash Brothers
Ding-dong, the Witch is injured! I know that you don’t have a long history with me, but the early, early iteration of the Golden State Warriors were one of the biggest reasons I truly fell in love with NBA basketball. As a self-proclaimed shooter myself, nothing spoke to me more than bombs upon bombs from the early Splash Brothers. You’re currently talking to a guy who once proclaimed, with the Bible in hand: “The only thing that I believe in is Stephen Curry’s jump shot.” My favorite style of basketball is an outside-in approach, where the 3-pointers set up the backdoor cuts which set up the fakes which set up more 3-pointers – and around and around we go. The selflessness of the Golden State Warriors in terms of their passing was the crème de la crème for yours truly, and it was a stark contrast to the ugly hero ball that those knuckleheads played in Oklahoma City. So, when Durant isn’t playing, I get nostalgic for the simpler times, and I wish so badly that he eventually decides to leave and become a Knick. Please do it, Kevin. We beg you.
With the Jonas Brothers and the Splash Brothers reuniting for one last ride, I fully expect the Warriors to throw this thing back to their 2015-16 version – so let’s take a peek at their stats from then. Their offense is a little bit more efficient now versus then (116.0 vs. 114.9), but both marks would still lead the league. And I know that Kevin Durant is technically viewed as a plus-defender, his inclusion into the fold makes Draymond less of the freelancer and more of the under the rim protector. Draymond’s athleticism has fallen off of a cliff over the course of his four straight Finals appearances, and he needs a nap as badly as he needs a jump shot. But when he is the lynch pin on defense and the point guard on offense, this Warriors team is as deadly as they come.
While the Warriors may be on Auto-pilot at this point, they owned a 104.1 Defensive Rating in ’15-16 (a mark that would lead the league today), and the bones of the lineup of death are still intact. Don’t be surprised if we see a Poor Man’s Death Lineup tonight with the likes of Alfonso McKinnie or Shaun Livingston joining the quarter of Steph-Klay-Draymond-Iggy. Houston isn’t exactly known for their defense, and if we have a good old fashioned shoot-out on our hands, I would prefer to have money on the team with the two best shooters in NBA history – wouldn’t you?
Hey, remember when the Houston Rockets were 4-7 to start the season and everybody was throwing dirt on their graves? That was a good time. Remember when Harden wasn’t throwing up 50-point games on a weekly basis and averaging 36 points per game on a league-record 13.4 3-point attempts per game? Oh, the memories. Since that time, the Houston Rockets have shed 215 pounds of baggage named Carmelo Anthony and ripped 38 wins in 56 contests, and most of that was without Chris Paul. We’re one twisted ankle for Giannis away from James Harden hoisting his second straight MVP trophy, and yet three months ago, before an OKC-Houston match-up, some dummy on the internet made this joke:
For tonight’s game, we’re going to head back down to Oklahoma City where the Westbrook-less Thunder take on the Harden-less Rockets (Harden is playing – he’s just really bad this year).
And that dummy, ladies and gentlemen…was yours truly. I have an exposed take! I could cry tears of joy right now. My dream has come true.
Not only have the Rockets strung together another incredible season, but they are on the precipice of sweeping the Golden State Warriors in their season series. The best thing about the Rockets is that they have a set, designed system that they run over and over again every game, and thus they are extremely easy to predict. The worst thing about the Rockets is that they have a set, designed system that they run over and over again every game, and thus they are extremely boring to write about.
The Rockets are second only in Offensive Rating to the aforementioned Warriors, but the real standout mark is their 3-point percentage. All this team wants to do is math you to death. Yes, that is correct – math you. They want to use math and the fact that 3 is a higher number than 2 to wear you down into a statistical heap. They shoot a whopping 51% of their shots from beyond the arc. Can you imagine if we dropped this team in a time machine into 1996? The 72-10 Chicago Bulls outscored their opponents by 13.4 points per 100 possessions and shot 19% of their shots from 3-point land. They were the best offense by a mile and scored 105 points per game – ironically, the same amount that the 2018-19 Bulls score per game, who rank 28th in scoring. Shooters shoot, and no shooters shoot more than the Rockets shooters. Get the picture? They’re gonna chuck up about 60 three-pointers and hope that they make 22 of them. That’s all I got for you. Keep reading if you need some more intel.
As I’ve lamented already, March is a time for college basketball, spring weather, and bar hopping in Philly for St. Paddy’s Day (and my b-day). It is not a time for marquee playoff previews. I can’t stress to you enough how little these NBA players care about the last 10 to 15 regular season games. I love this league with my whole heart, but it’s player-driven above all else, and they’re going to have their way with regards to the length of the season. The end of March is for G-League players, draft positioning, and rookies off the bench at the end of blowouts – not for Western Conference Finals previews. If this were a Saturday or Sunday night NBA on ABC blow-out extravaganza, I could see something memorable happening. But on a Wednesday night during Conference Championship week, I fear that we’re going to get two teams going through the motions.
But, with that being said, there’s one man who I believe will not be going through the motions, and that man is, in my opinion, the best offensive weapon in the history of the NBA. If there was ever a time for Stephen Curry to have a “Forgot About Dre” moment, now would be it. On the road, hostile environment, conference rival, contender for the throne – this is where the kid from Davidson shines. March Madness is upon us, and I think Steph might have a throwback in store for us. Also, the Warriors would prefer to not get swept by the Rockets. That is all.
Final Score Prediction: Golden State 120 – Houston Rockets 116