There was hardly any doubt among the oddsmakers about who was going to win Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals. With Chris Paul out and the Warriors facing elimination at home, Golden State was an overwhelming (-12.5/-1000) favorite.
Whoever decided to lay the big chalk had their heart in their throat early in the game when Houston built up a 17-point lead with a 39-point first quarter. Eric Gordon, Trevor Ariza and PJ Tucker were hitting 3-pointers and the Warriors were stagnant on offense. Golden State cut the deficit to 10 at the half and blew things open in the second half to win, cover, and force a decisive Game 7.
All three games in Houston have been virtual picks with each team winning a game by double-digits and Houston taking Game 5 by the slimmest of margins. The books give the nod to Golden State on the road in Game 7, though. The Warriors are giving up to 5.5 points at the Toyota Center.
The biggest reason for the shift in the odds for the game on Monday is Paul’s injury. The Rockets have remained mum on their point guard’s strained hamstring that kept him out of Game 6 but if anything is certain it’s that he will try to play. Presumably, Houston decided to keep him out of Game 6 because it saw Game 7 as its one big chance to eliminate Golden State and wanted to give Paul as much time to heal before that moment as possible.
If Paul plays effectively, Houston is a steal at this number. If he can’t play the way he played in Games 1-5, a huge onus falls on James Harden to beat his man and initiate offense. With Paul potentially hobbled and Harden looking winded, though the energy inside the Toyota Center should help him push through one more game, it’s understandable to assume that Golden State has worn Houston down.
But I don’t think the number properly assesses the power of home court. The Rockets came out on fire in Game 6 and just couldn’t sustain anything, while Golden State had the extra push of the crowd. Game 7 will see those roles reversed. Houston should have the extra push down the stretch, while Golden State will be fighting against everything the Toyota Center has to offer. You can bet on Clint Capela, who was a shadow at Oracle in Game 6, being a heck of a lot more active around the rim at home. Gerald Green is going to leave it all on the floor, too.
That said, Golden State looks like the stronger side going into this game and it’s possible Andre Iguodala comes back. He’s had a week off since he last played in Game 3. Even his presence would be huge for the Warriors and his backup, Quinn Cook. If Iguodala can give the Warriors 10 good minutes, he’ll make a difference defensively and to deepen the rotation. We won’t get any news on AI until Monday but it’s something to watch out for.
I can understand why the thinking is all on Golden State now but Houston offers a lot of value here. I would be shocked if Paul doesn’t play and the Rockets’ defensive energy won’t wane in the second half like it did in Game 6. I’m sprinkling some on the +190 moneyline, too.
Free Pick: Houston +5.5