Everyone presumed that the Golden State Warriors would win the Western Conference for a fourth straight season come April and then beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the fourth consecutive NBA Finals matchup between the teams. The Warriors took two of the first three, including last summer’s series.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
Oddsmakers haven’t changed their mind on the Warriors, who again have four All-Stars this season in Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – the Dubs became the first team in NBA history to have four All-Stars in consecutive years.
Golden State is the -300 favorite in the conference. And why not? The team is loaded and coming out of the All-Star break leading the NBA in scoring, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, free throw percentage, assists per game and blocks per game.
What the Warriors don’t have, however, is the NBA’s best record at the break. It’s the first time since 2014 they don’t. They are a half-game behind the 44-13 Houston Rockets, who also have the NBA’s best point differential at plus-8.7 (Warriors are at plus-8.1).
Houston also won the season series over the Warriors, 2-1, meaning James Harden’s Rockets would win a home-court playoff tiebreaker should the two teams finish with the same record. Houston is +275 to win the franchise’s first West title since Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon led Houston to back-to-back NBA crowns in 1994-95.
ESPN’s statistical sister site, FiveThirtyEight, projects Houston to finish with the NBA’s best record at 62-20 and gives it the best chance of winning the Finals are 34 percent; Golden State is second at 22 percent and is projected to finish 61-21.
The Rockets are changing NBA offenses forever as they are on pace to become the first NBA team to attempt more three-pointers than two-pointers in a season. They put up an absurd average of 42.8 three-pointers per game (2,441). Just for a point of comparison, Michael Jordan attempted 1,778 three-pointers in his entire regular-season career.
There’s a sizable drop-off from the odds on the Warriors and Rockets to the Oklahoma City Thunder (+1000) and San Antonio Spurs (+1600). The Thunder, it should be noted, are 2-0 against the Warriors this season, winning both games by at least 17 points. The Spurs’ odds likely would shorten whenever star Kawhi Leonard returns from a severe quad injury that has limited him to nine games and none since January 13.