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Western Conference Weekend Recap

As you’d expect, the oddsmakers haven’t shifted the needle all that much for the set of Game 2 spreads. That’s fine for most of them, but there are two series where things are getting way more interesting than the odds indicate. Let’s trim some fat and get ready to feast on this week’s Western Conference matchups by sussing out what the hell just happened.

Golden State Warriors Trampling Outmatched Spurs
To be fair, the Golden State Warriors got a lot of calls in Game 1 that didn’t really seem like fair ones. Pop lost his mind. Bettors got angry. But there’s no getting around the simple fact that the fluid scoring machine of the Warriors is ramping up pretty damn well.

The biggest tipping point in this series is supposed to LaMarcus Aldridge, who is inches away from getting lambasted as a playoff dud. We all saw this happen last year in the playoffs, and now we’re being reminded of it yet again. Aldridge is a max player without a next level. He played just 24 minutes in Game 1 and logged 14 points, but was getting outworked by Javale Freaking McGee.

The Spurs present like a team that should be great value as a near-double-digit underdog, but they don’t have the stallions to keep up in this race. There’s no shock here. We all knew Golden State was going to win the series. It was just tempting to talk yourself in to San Antonio giving them some headaches. Doesn’t look like it’s happening.

Next Game: SA at GS -9.5 (Monday, April 16th at 10:30pm ET)

Pelicans-Blazers Is Going To Be A Gift That Keeps On Giving
Wow. This series is going to be absolute fire and I can’t wait to stay up late and watch Game 2 already. The oddsmakers have basically installed the same spread for the second matchup, and that’s fair, but it ignores just how well New Orleans played overall.

The Pelicans did a lot of things in a tight loss that they can consistency do. Rondo dealt 17 assists. Jrue Holiday was obnoxiously good at getting buckets. And Davis registered 35 points and 14 boards while the team played defence at a much better level than any of us saw coming. They held the Blazers to just 37.8 percent shooting from the field. That’s awful.

I’m much more inclined to lean towards New Orleans in this one because Anthony Davis is truly elevating to a place that we usually only reserve for Kevin Durant and LeBron James. I know that the Pelicans lost the opener, but that’s too many points for my liking.

New Orleans lacks so many things I would prefer, like guards who can play defence and any sort of depth. Portland had no answer for Davis, and they won’t brew up a solution out of thin air. Like I’ve said with other series, the best player makes an enormous difference and New Orleans can ride this to some sneaky covers while making Portland’s eventual series win a miserable experience.

Next Game: NO at POR -6.0 (Tuesday, April 17th at 10:35pm ET)

Oklahoma City and Utah Are Already Giving Us Headaches
In my earlier playoff preview, I said that the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City matchup gave me giggles as a basketball nerd. Coaching, strategy and this island of misfit toys battling against two mega stars in George and Westbrook? I love it.

But as I’ve said time and again (literally just said it about 200 words ago!), the best player in the series finds a way to turn the tide. The Thunder have the two outright best players in this matchup, and showed why that’s such an unfair advantage. Paul George had 36 points built up by eight three-pointers that all fels like merciless daggers. Russ was there too, chipping in 29 points and 13 rebounds along with 8 assists.

Utah did everything I expected and hoped that they would by grinding away with a tactical, methodical approach. Buoying their chances in Game 1 was a ten point barrage from Trey Burks that came out of nowhere. Reports on Donavan Mitchell’s foot came back negative and he notched 27 and 10 in spite of being hampered.

In my heart, I know that Utah can fight in this one. But I don’t think that they have a true answer for Paul George and Russell Westbrook. Those guys were able to do anything they wanted to when it mattered, and Utah responded with a grit that we’ve come to love about them. Everything within me as a fan of coaching wants to promote Utah and support them, but it’s just hard to know if they have the legs to keep pace with guys like George and Russ.

Beyond that, Oklahoma City’s outright confidence was pretty incredible. If there was a glimpse of this team combusting, or failing to figure out who they were, I’d be going crazy on the NBA series price for the Jazz. But there’s a swagger in OKC that’s undeniable.

Utah will steal a game in this series. It’s inevitable. It’s just hard to predict when that will happen, and even if Mitchell’s foot is fine, it’s still causing him pain. Game 2 belongs to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and so does your money.

Next Game: UTA at OKC -4.0 (Wednesday, April 18th at 8pm ET)

Minnesota Can Actually Hang With Houston
Aside from the Pacers absolutely decimating Cleveland, the most surprising result of the weekend was Minnesota hanging tough with the all mighty Rockets. It’s almost incredible that the Timberwolves were involved in this game when Karl-Anthony Towns only scored 8 points and totaled 12 rebounds.

There’s more depth in Minnesota than we all thought there was. Butler doesn’t look like he’s missed a beat, though he still feels a week or two away from morphing back in to the elite killer we know him as. Teague and Rose also combined for 31 pretty astonishing points while Andrew Wiggins was totally fine with 18 and 6 while picking up 4 fouls as well.

Houston was their standard, high powered selves with Harden erupting for 44 points but Chris Paul was a bit of a problem in this one. If anything, we were reminded of Houston’s on-going problems with playoff success. There will be games where they make it easy on themselves, and others where they get in their own way. It’s the nature of their culture.

This game was surprisingly won in the paint and Minnesota luckily has the stop gaps to cram in there before the ship starts sinking. Clint Capella scored 24 super efficient points and the Rockets overall registered 54 points in the paint as a team. That’s actually pretty representative of Minnesota’s ability in this area as they allowed 45.7 on the season and ranked 20th in the league. You probably didn’t think that this was a weakness in their team game considering the presence of Towns, so it’s worth mentioning.

Between Taj Gibson, Gorgui Deng and Towns, the Timberwolves shouldn’t have this problem, especially with Tom Thibodeau as their head coach. But the fact that the Timberwolves stayed within three points of an -11.5 favorite has bettors salivating.

More offence. More defence. Just flat out more from Minnesota is expected because they stepped in the ring with a heavyweight and went toe-to-toe. And they did it with their three best players having totally average games. Houston can absolutely run away with this series if they want to, but I think we all undersold the threat that Minnesota offers in terms of a cover team.

It’s almost irresponsible of you to leave those 10.5 points the Timberwolves are getting on Wednesday on the table.

Next Game: MIN at HOU -10.5 (Wednesday, April 18th at 9:30pm ET)

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