By Charles Jay
The Houston Rockets had the opportunity and didn't seize it. They were oh so close to being able to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semi-finals with a second victory on the road, but they couldn't get the job done - not in the closing minutes of regulation, and not in the overtime period, even though the San Antonio Spurs were missing its superstar player. Now they have to take a long, hard look at their strategy as they approach Game 6, as they will be out of it if they cannot hold serve on their home floor. The action will begin at 8:05 PM ET at the Toyota Center, and while ESPN is televising it, BetDNA customers can get their fill of real-time action as they use the best live betting software on the planet.
That superstar is Kawhi Leonard, who injured his ankle in the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game and has been ruled out for this one. That obviously changes things, and has moved the line.
Houston was so successful in getting their preferred pace the game before, befuddling the San Antonio defense for the most part as they got their shots up before the Spurs could get set. When they go small they have a chance, but at the same time they leave themselves extremely vulnerable on the defensive end. On the podcast THE DNA REPORT we mentioned that the Rockets have, on occasion, gone without a real center, using Ryan Anderson as the closest thing to a pivot man, and on those occasions they have scored 149.2 points per 100 possessions and given up 154.2. And to offer the proper perspective there, you need to know that the Golden State Warriors, the best offensive team in the NBA, averaged 115.6 points per 100 possessions, while the Los Angeles Lakers, the worst defensive team, gave up 113 points per 100. In other words, there is going to be scoring on both ends when these conditions present themselves. And this may be one way head coach Mike D'Antoni turns, since he simply can't compete with what the Spurs can do on the inside, with Pau Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge in the starting lineup, and Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee, among others, coming off the bench.
In the NBA playoff betting odds posted on this game at BetDNA.com, home of the best live betting software on the planet, the Rockets are nine-point favorites, with a total of 209.5 points.
This series has experienced several shifts in terms of who has gained the tactical advantage, which is one of the things that is so great about the NBA playoffs - the ability, and indeed, the necessity, to make adjustments from one game to the next, against the same opponent. Much of the time it has been about tempo; San Antonio would rather play this very low on the scale of possessions, while Houston would love to get out on the break at every opportunity. D'Antoni, as most NBA betting observers know from his days in Houston, likes to get a shot off in eight seconds or less.
It would seem logical that in a game where it is do-or-die, the Rockets are going to pull out ail the stops to do whatever they do best. And that means going to extremes to push the pace. They can do it, and maybe even win this game, if James Harden can avoid committing so many late-game turnovers like he did on Tuesday. The Rockets played four of their five starters at least 40 minutes in Game 5, and if they are a bit tried, we think that might hurt them more on the defensive end, where you need to work harder. Without Leonard, the Spurs will miss defense more than offense, rest assured. For what it's worth, San Antonio has played eleven of its last 13 over the total, and despite the 89.1 pace figure from Game 5, this game was 60-58 at the half. Let's move OVER this total again, for CJ's Play.
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