The conference semifinals continue Tuesday with a doubleheader, but all eyes will be on the nightcap when two of the NBA's greatest players collide.
LeBron James and Steph Curry have ruled the NBA for over a decade. Curry and James have combined for eight of the last 11 NBA titles, with each future Hall of Famer wrapping their arms around the championship trophy four times. The two also faced each other in the NBA Finals for four consecutive years from 2015-2019. Golden State's dynasty was built by Steph Curry dethroning King James' Cleveland Cavaliers in three of those four NBA Finals. The following season, James joined the Lakers and enacted his revenge by eliminating Golden State on the way to claiming his fourth NBA title with his third different team. Now, with the trophy residing back in the Bay with the Warriors as defending champions, the stage is set with the ultimate storyline for the series ahead.
Choosing between fading Steph Curry or LeBron James feels like a twisted scene from one of the old "Saw" sequels. There is no decision you feel great about, and whichever side you choose will put you in an uncomfortable amount of danger. But, as the old saying goes, scared money don't make money, and this isn't a series I can sit out. Below you will find my bets for Tuesday's second game.
Los Angeles Lakers +4.5 at Golden State Warriors
When it's all said and done, I think the Warriors advance as Steph Curry comes one step closer to his fifth ring. I'm not confident the Lakers will be able to shoot well enough from the perimeter throughout the series to keep pace with the Warriors. As well as L.A. has played the past two months, it's fair to question whether they will eventually run out of gas. The Lakers have played with postseason-like pressure since the trade deadline and handled their business in the play-in tournament, only to find themselves in an emotional series against the Grizzlies. Now, they have starring roles in LeBron-Steph V. That's a lot for any team, and I will be interested to see how guys like Jarred Vanderbilt, Rui Hachimura and Austin Reaves will hold up.
It sounds contradictory after making those points, but I am betting the Lakers cover this number in Tuesday's game. I expect the Warriors' experience and advantages to unfold throughout the series, but L.A. is in a prime spot to steal Game 1. The Lakers had the entire weekend off, while Steph Curry needed 50 to put out the lights on Sacramento's season. A few years back, The Ringer's Raheem Palmer analyzed how teams perform after surviving a seven-game series, and they historically struggled in Game 1 of the next round. The rest disadvantage will be significant Tuesday, and I think it will show up on the boards, giving the Lakers plenty of second-chance opportunities. One of the keys for the Warriors is to figure out a solution for Anthony Davis, whether it's Kevon Looney, Draymond Green or a combination of both. It will be trial by error, but I'm betting Steve Kerr's doesn't nail it on the first swing. Bet the Lakers to strike first and keep this one close at a minimum.
Is the total correlated to the outcome?
In regards to Tuesday's game, the short answer is yes. The Lakers will want to slow the tempo and make it more of a half-court game, especially on the road. However, throughout the entire series, I will be hunting for good numbers on unders, for the full game and team totals. Even in games where Golden State has success, I don't see these teams getting close to 230 too many times. These are two teams built with veteran cores, and each game in the series is followed by only one day of rest in between. I'm going to hit the under in Game 1, and monitor the adjustments the books make throughout the series. The Bet: Under 227.5
Same-Game Parlay +2000
LeBron James 5+ assists
Anthony Davis 10+ rebounds
Steph Curry 5+ 3-pointers
This will be an epic series, so let's start with a fun dart throw at 20-1 odds. I like the Lakers to win the game, and going well below market on the total is the rocket fuel that boosts the return to +2000. As crazy as it sounds to go low at Chase Center, only three games (Games 1,4 and 5) broke the 220 mark in a seven-game series versus Sacramento. If we hit the first two legs, we will be cruising downhill the rest of the way.
LeBron had at least five dimes in five of the six games against the Grizzlies, and Davis should have his way on the boards with Golden State's fatigue coming into play. For our final act, betting on Steph Curry to drain 3s at home seems solid. Curry splashed his way to seven treys to finish off Sacramento and shot 45% from beyond the arc at home this season. Our implied odds come in at 4.76%, so stake accordingly, but it also confirms we have a chance!