Locky: Finding Value in the Game 5 Over/Under
Pictured: James Harden and Klay Thompson. Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?
Until about the final minute, I think everyone at Oracle Arena and watching on television thought the Warriors were somehow going to pull out Game 4. And then (rather bizarrely with a review), it ended, and all of a sudden it’s 2-2 and the Rockets have home-court advantage back. The early market is unsurprisingly heavy on Golden State (and I mean, who wouldn’t be? We anointed the Warriors the champions a few days ago). I am, however, a bit concerned about my Warriors title futures from long ago, and what I’ve seen recently may actually lead me to make a play on this game. I shall explain.
The setup of the NBA Playoffs is a little bizarre, because it gives teams a lot of rest days right away (sometimes as many as two or three between games in the first round), but then compresses as we get closer to the Finals. This year, there was an odd several-day break after the first two games of each series, but we are now smack in the middle of an every-other-day, travel-on-off-days meat grinder that should make the players really as fatigued as possible. You throw in the fact that both teams shortened their benches so much in Game 4 (Golden State due to injury, the Rockets because they’re the Rockets and this is usually why they lose late in the playoffs), and I think you could really get some ineffective, sloppy offense in Game 5, along the lines of what you saw in the last two to three minutes of Game 4.
The crispness that defines Golden State’s offense may just not be there, especially if Andre Iguodala continues to sit out and Klay Thompson continues to hobble around the court (although even when hobbling, he still manages to get away from James Harden on occasion). Meanwhile, Houston basically played six guys Tuesday night, and it’s not like all of a sudden Mike D’Antoni’s going to throw Tarik Black out there thinking, “Well, let’s see what we’ve got here!” You see this reflected a little in the total, which has opened 220 after Game 4 opened 224 and was bet up from there.
You also have to remember that as series go along, sometimes the total descends because there is an understanding that teams become more familiar with each other the longer they play, making it harder to score as effectively. It is very rare to see totals escalate as the series goes into the final few games. In this instance, you have that effect of familiarity AND the fatigue/travel concerns mentioned above. I am on the under here and think we may see a somewhat similar version to the fourth quarter from Tuesday night play out over 48 minutes. I don’t think the drop in the total really accurately reflects the sloppiness and fatigue we might see. The intensity of Game 4 was as high as you’ll ever see in a game, and there have to be some significant effects moving forward with such little turnaround time.