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Does Warriors Slip-Up Create an Opening for the Rockets?

The Golden State Warriors suffered two losses on Sunday: first, they lost center Demarcus Cousin to a the quad injury just four minutes into Game 2 of their best-of-seven series with the LA Clippers. Second, they lost Game 2 on the scoreboard, somehow blowing a 31-point second-half lead. Now the series shifts to LA for Games 3 and 4, all tied up at one game each. After the loss, the Warriors remained short -220 favorites to win the 2019 NBA title and also opened as huge eight-point road favorites for Game 3 against the Clippers, according to the odds via SBD.

The Dubs’ title odds are the same now as they were after Game 1, a 121-104 Golden State win. Arguably, that creates value on the other legitimate contenders, in particular, the Houston Rockets, who lag at +950 to win the 2019 title.
Houston was able to dismantle Utah in Game 1 of their first-round series, 122-90. They also took Golden State to a Game 7 last year in the Western Conference finals and likely would have won that series if not for an injury to Chris Paul. Fast forward to the 2018-19 regular season and Houston once again went toe-to-toe with the Warriors. The Rockets won the regular-season series 3-1, including winning twice on the road at Oracle Arena: 135-134 in OT on Jan. 3 rd and 118-112 on Feb. 23 rd. The Rockets also dominated Golden State at home in November (107-86), while losing a tight one in Houston in mid-March (106-104).
As the #4 seed, Houston will have to win at least one game at Oracle Arena to beat the Warriors in round two (if/when that matchup materializes). But, crucially, the Rockets should still be relatively fresh at that point. As mentioned, it was injuries and fatigue that did them in last year. Their 7/44 performance from beyond the arc in Game 7 likely had a lot to do with tired legs. By playing Golden State in round two instead of the Western Conference finals, Houston and its reasonably short rotation should still have lots of bounce.

That will be especially true if the Rockets continue to manhandle Utah the way they did in Game 1, while Golden State continues to get pushed harder than expected by the Clippers. The Warriors do not have a deep rotation, either, and whichever team heads into their seemingly inevitable second-round series with fresher legs should have a significant advantage. With home-court advantage; the Warriors will still deserve to be favorites against Houston in round two. But right now, Golden State’s odds to win the title (-220) are overly optimistic, while Houston’s odds (+950) underestimate their ability to upset the two-time defending champions.