It seemed an inevitability for months now that the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets would meet in the Western Conference Finals.
The matchup is now official. The Warriors defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 4-1 to advance, while the Rockets also earned a 4-1 series victory against the Utah Jazz to secure their spot.
These two teams were the frontrunners in the Western Conference going back to the beginning of the season. It wasn’t until the Warriors were plagued with major injuries towards the end of the regular season that it became clear the Rockets would have the home-court advantage in any potential playoff matchup.
The Rockets finished 7 games ahead of the Warriors in the Western Conference, but it turns out Vegas isn’t all that impressed by that.
The Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas opened with the Warriors as -185 favorites to beat the Rockets in the series. Participants seemed to jump at that offering with enthusiasm. After just a few hours of posting, it increased to -190 for the Warriors.
This is a huge indication that the gambling world attributes the Rockets superior regular season record to Warriors injuries. With both teams at full strength, the betting sector believes that home-court advantage is not enough to push the Rockets over the edge and make them favorites in the series.
This is a stunning indictment. The Rockets won 65 games this regular season. They became just the 21st squad in NBA history to win that many games.
Of those 20 previous teams that achieved that feat, 15 eventually won the championship. 16 made it at least to the NBA Finals.
This development speaks volumes about how this Warriors team is viewed right now. The Rockets won 65 regular season games and are 8-2 this postseason, yet aren’t favored to advance out of the series despite home-court advantage. Let that sink in for a moment.
The Rockets went 2-1 against the Warriors in the regular season, but the game they lost deserves a bit of an asterisk because neither James Harden nor Kevin Durant participated.
The Rockets came back from a 17-point deficit to win on opening night 122-121, and they also beat the Warriors 116-108 on January 20 in Houston when the Warriors had all of their 4 all-stars playing.
The assessment made here with this Westgate posting is that had the Warriors been healthy all season, they’d have certainly been the top seed in the Western Conference.
There’s no way to know definitively if that’s true, but this same roster won a championship last season, so there’s more than enough merit to the argument.
If I were a gambling man, I’d bet the Warriors, but I’m also a passionate fan who would throw aside all reason and bet with my heart.
Luckily, there’s plenty of logic on my side to justify that wager. The Warriors are playing out of their minds right now, and every key piece looks healthy and energized.
However, If I’m forced to be as objective as possible, I don’t think I would fervidly dissuade someone from betting on the Rockets.
65 wins is a stunning total. They have home court advantage. They went 34-7 at home during the regular season. They’re healthy.
These two teams went a combined 63-19 at home during the regular season. If nothing abnormal happens in the series, the stats indicate a likely 7 games with the Rockets ultimately advancing.
It’s not just about whether or not the Warriors would have gotten home-court if not for their litany of injuries. Let’s even assume there’s no debate about that.
We can only live within the realm of what actually occurred. You can believe the Warriors are a better team all things considered (which I do). The Rockets are still getting more home games if this series goes 7 games, though.
The question comes down to whether the Warriors are so much better than the Rockets that the extra home game doesn’t matter.
I believe they are, but it’s disrespectful to what the Rockets have accomplished this season to dismiss that question without some serious contemplation.
Given that a gambler could make way more money betting on the Rockets with how things currently are with Westgate, the Rockets might be the conventionally safer bet from that perspective.
However, it seems laughable to consider any team with a lineup consisting of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Durant, and Draymond Green a “riskier” bet than their opponent.
Although I think the Warriors will end up prevailing over the Rockets in this series, it’s most likely going to be tightly contested. Basketball fans have gotten the most compelling matchup.
If one of these teams completely dominates the other, it’s going to be a really stunning illustration of just how powerful that victor is.
The eventual Eastern Conference champion is going to have a huge task at hand whichever of these two Western Conference finalists emerge. The basketball world should prepare for a fantastic series.