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Find Your Perfect Bet For Rockets Vs. Spurs Game 5
Spurs looking good against Rockets on Tuesday
By Liam Davis
San Antonio Spurs (-5.5) vs. Houston Rockets (+5.5)
Reality is beginning to set in. The NBA playoffs are reaching their most pivotal peak. The Golden State Warriors have already advanced through to the Western Conference Finals, their third straight appearance, with a second-round sweep of the Utah Jazz. Both the San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets enter Game 5, tied at two games apiece, vying for the right to challenge the reigning Western Conference champs.
Which side should you back on Tuesday night?
The answer isn't obvious, but it comes pretty close.
Your team is San Antonio.
This isn't just about the Spurs needing to respond to their 21-point loss on Sunday, which came two tilts after they lost Game 1 by a franchise-worst 27 points. This isn't even totally about the Spurs playing at home. They have the best home-court three-point defense in the NBA, in terms of three-pointers allowed per game, but the Rockets are going to jack up a ton of threes wherever they play.
No, this is about Nene's season-ending injury.
The Rockets found out Monday that Nene would miss the rest of the year with a torn left adductor. Make no mistake, this is big. The Rockets' bench leads all second units in scoring per game for the playoffs, and Nene is a big part of their success. He doesn't score a bunch of points per se, but he sets good screens, rolls toward the basket with purpose and is a stout defender in the post.
Losing that latter aspect of his contributions is going to be a problem. Clint Capela is a good rim-runner, and he can be a good rim protector. But he doesn't have the strength right now to body up against the Spurs' myriad big men—from LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, to David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon.
Though the Rockets can counter by running super small, with Ryan Anderson or Montrezl Harrell at the 5, they didn't dabble much in those types of lineups during the regular season. And when they did, the offense was a dream, but the defense was a statistical mess, according to NBA.com.
The Spurs can take advantage of this. For one, it allows them to go small themselves, perhaps with Kawhi Leonard at the 4 next to just one big, while not suffering any consequences. Mostly, though, it allows them to try and target the paint and the middle in general. If they get Capela into foul trouble, as they've showed the ability to do, they might be able to get anything they want on offense as the game progresses.
Also, and perhaps most importantly, Leonard is going to have a better game. He has been magnificent this postseason—the second-best performer in the league, trailing only LeBron James. He wasn't terrible in Game 4, but he was tame by his own recent standards, tallying "just" 16 points and four assists on 7-of-14 shooting in just under 30 minutes of actions.
If the Spurs can avoid falling into huge holes early on, he'll play more, and the offense will be better off. The team will hit more of their threes—they bareley shot 30 percent from beyond the arc in Game 4—and everything will just hum from there.
Bank on them getting the job done this Tuesday. They're too smart, and too consistent, of a team not to put the stench of Game 4 behind them in a big way.
The Pick: San Antonio Spurs (-5.5)
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