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Warriors-Clippers Series Betting Preview: Bet on a Golden State Sweep?

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Photo credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kevin Durant and Montrezl Harrell

  • The 1-seed Golden State Warriors and 8-seed Los Angeles Clippers will match up in the first round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs.
  • Bryan Mears dives into the biggest matchup factor of the series and why he thinks there's value on the Warriors to sweep.

No. 1 Golden State Warriors vs. No. 8 Los Angeles Clippers

Odds: Warriors -15000 | Clippers +2500

As I wrote here, there’s clearly something to the Warriors “flip-the-switch” narrative. In the regular season, they’re one of the worst bets in sports, producing a -19.3% return on investment last year and -15.7% this season. But in the playoffs, they’re actually one of the best against-the-spread (ATS) teams in the Durant era.

This is not exactly news: They’re obviously incredibly talented but are largely uninterested in the regular season. It’s why they’re third in the league with 57 wins but are still heavy -200 favorites to win the title.

It’s not just about motivation, though. It’s also about rotations, which will be shortened in the playoffs. Here are their three most-used five-man lineups this season and how they performed …

  • Curry-Klay-Durant-Draymond-Looney: +18.7 Net Rating in 675 minutes
  • Curry-Klay-Durant-Draymond-Cousins: +13.6 Net Rating in 589 minutes
  • Curry-Klay-Iguodala-Durant-Draymond: +32.0 Net Rating in 388 minutes

Meanwhile, the lineups with guys down the bench weren’t so great. That’s what happens when you have a starting lineup full of All-Stars and Hall of Fame players. Those guys make a lot of money, which means the bench isn’t going to be that great. I mean, it’s not bad — Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have been awesome over the years — but the numbers with guys like Quinn Cook, Alfonzo McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko are uninspiring to say the least.

And those guys just won’t be counted on in the playoffs nearly as much. Those starting lineups above absolutely eviscerated their competition — and that was in the regular season with the motivation issues! They could be even better now and play more. Good luck, Clippers.

Speaking of the Clippers, in their season series against the Warriors, they took just 23.5% of their shots from beyond the arc. That’s a silly low number, and if they’re going to continue to opt for mid-rangers instead of higher-efficient looks, they certainly are not going to keep pace with this Dubs juggernaut.

Don’t get me wrong: The Clippers have some strengths and could keep some games close. They’re the best team in the league at getting to the foul line, and the Warriors typically commit a lot of fouls. Whether the Clips get those calls in a playoff setting — a common critique of James Harden and the Rockets — remains to be seen, but it’s at least a strength they can try to force.

But, honestly, it’s difficult to make a strong case for the Clippers hanging around other than the Warriors just not putting their foot down for a sweep. That happened last year in Game 4 of the first round against the Spurs (although obviously Steph wasn’t back yet). The only thing preventing a Warriors sweep here is apathy.

But … given how this team has been and that their only goal is winning the NBA Finals, apathy is a legitimate concern. Warriors to win in four games is +150, while a 4-1 series is +180. For them to cover -2.5 games — so win in five games or less — is -715, which is a fairly steep price to pay. I think the best value is the Warriors to sweep — maybe Boogie injects some life in his first real run at a title? — but you might have to sweat it for the L.A. games.

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