NBA Playoffs: Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers series preview

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Opening price (via DraftKings): Golden State Warriors (-145) Los Angeles Lakers (+120)

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The last time Stephen Curry and LeBron James met in a playoff series Kevin Durant was a member of the Golden State Warriors and J.R. Smith forgot he was in a tie game at the end of regulation. Curry and James will reignite their rivalry in a much anticipated Western Conference semifinal series, and while Golden State is favored once again, it is nowhere near the degree to which it was favored when James faced it all those years ago.

Both teams in this series are flawed, so this will come down to which team can exploit those flaws with the most efficiency. Let’s go over those issues, and see where the value is in this series.

Golden State’s depth issue

Throughout the regular season Golden State struggled regularly when Curry was not on the floor. It was outscored by 2.0 points every 100 possessions, and its 113.0 offensive rating in those minutes ranked in the 35th percentile. Those issues carried over in an extreme way to the postseason.

The Kings posted a +30.6 net rating in the series with the Warriors when Curry was not on the floor. Their offense was abysmal in those minutes, averaging 91.3 points per 100 possessions overall and 82.0 points per 100 plays in the halfcourt. Only the members of the starting lineup for Golden State posted a positive plus-minus in the series, so the role players have a massive load on their shoulders against Los Angeles.

Specifically, the one-time Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Jordan Poole.

Poole was -11 in 160 minutes against Sacramento. He averaged only 12.0 points and 3.0 assists on 33.8% shooting from the floor. One could argue that it was just a tough series for Poole and that he is perfectly capable of bouncing back. That is certainly possible, but this poor stretch follows a regular season in which he posted a career-worst -5.9 efficiency differential. This could also just be an extension of what has been a poor year for Poole. The bench issues are hardly just on him, but he is the most important reserve for Steve Kerr. If the Warriors are going to win this series the bench must be better, and that starts with Poole.

The need for good bench play by Golden State is magnified by how well their opponent in this series has played without one of its best players.

Los Angeles was +29.4 per 100 possessions when LeBron James was off the floor against Memphis. The Lakers only allowed 95.6 points per 100 possessions in those minutes and 28.6% from the 3-point line. They could exacerbate the biggest problem for Golden State, and that could go a long way toward winning the series.

Lakers’ inefficient offense

Los Angeles has averaged only 110.4 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time during this postseason. That is a worse offensive rating than San Antonio’s in the regular season, which finished 28th (110.9). They have averaged only 88.0 points per 100 halfcourt plays as well. Some of those struggles are the symptom of playing a good defensive opponent such as Memphis, but they only averaged 98.2 in the regular season after the trade deadline.

One of the biggest culprits in the Lakers’ offensive woes has been the inconsistent shooting. 

They shot 31.2% from beyond the arc against the Grizzlies, and that was despite shooting an above average 37.5% on wide-open attempts in that series. This, like the overall offensive struggles, should not come as a surprise. Los Angeles only shot 36.5% as a team after the trade deadline. It is a better shooting team than those terrible numbers indicated against Memphis, but it is still below average in that category. It is not inconceivable that these shooting issues don’t get much better.

And it goes without saying that shooting will be important against Golden State.

The Warriors take 41.3% of their attempts from beyond the arc, and they led the league in 3-point shooting percentage in the regular season (39.1%). Golden State will have an edge at the 3-point line more often than not in this series, but that gap can be much wider than average if Los Angeles is going to struggle from deep. 

Keep in mind that the Warriors shot just 35.6% on wide-open attempts against Sacramento, and could have some good luck coming their way too.

Betting Analysis

The lowest opening price on this series opened -130 but has since been bet up and the consensus is now about -150 or so. It’s my opinion that the price is cheaper than it should be on Golden State.

Those issues with the bench will be troublesome for the Warriors to deal with, but they are still capable of defending at a high level, as evidenced by holding the best offense in the NBA to 110.0 points per 100 possessions in non-garbage time. They are certainly capable of defending the Lakers’ inconsistent unit. With that, along with an edge in the shooting category, this should be a series Golden State can win, and I do not believe the market has adequately priced that. The bet here would be for the Warriors to win the series.

Bet Recommendation: Warriors to win series (-145)