An injury to Stephen Curry was reason for the Golden State Warriors to be worried. But things can change, sometimes dramatically and suddenly, and now the defending NBA champions are actually catching a lucky break.
Curry, the league’s leading scorer this season, will be sidelined about two weeks with a sprained right knee, so nothing has changed in that regard. The dramatic difference is that the Los Angeles Clippers are suddenly limping along as no threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference playoffs.
“The Clippers were going to be in such a good position,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said, “and all of the sudden it’s a disaster.”
The Clippers’ two biggest stars fell by the wayside Monday in a Game 4 loss at Portland that doubled as their funeral. Point guard Chris Paul went down with a broken right hand, and power forward Blake Griffin was ruled out for the rest of the postseason with a left quadriceps injury.
“How lucky is Golden State?” Sportsmemo.com handicapper Erin Rynning said. “I don’t think I would be betting the Clippers at this point. It all came undone.”
Before the Paul and Griffin injuries, the Clippers were 10-1 favorites to win their first-round series against the Trail Blazers. After adjustments, Portland is a 2½-point road favorite today and a minus-270 favorite to win a series tied 2-2.
Rynning cautioned against a following a public “overreaction” and assuming the Trail Blazers will beat the Clippers in Game 5, but he said backup point guard Austin Rivers rates as a poor replacement for Paul on both ends of the floor.
“It’s tough without Paul,” Rynning said. “Blake was not really doing a whole lot. But the difference between Paul and Rivers is about seven to eight points in my book, and that’s a big adjustment.”
Paul’s defensive efforts — and the Clippers’ suffocating backcourt trapping — were effective in containing Portland star point guard Damian Lillard. Veteran guard Jamal Crawford will see more playing time for the Clippers, especially if Rivers falters.
The Clippers’ odds to win the NBA title have dropped to between 50-1 to 100-1 at Las Vegas books. In reality, it’s a bad bet even at 1,000-1. The Trail Blazers could become the first team to overcome a 2-0 series deficit since Memphis pulled off the trick against the Clippers in the first round three years ago.
“The Clippers still have the pieces necessary to beat the Blazers, but I don’t think they will,” Bogdanovich said.
The top-seeded Warriors are 9½-point home favorites over Houston today in a series Golden State leads 3-1. The Rockets, blown out 121-94 on Sunday, resemble a heartless crew of losers, with James Harden and Dwight Howard providing little inspiration.
Meanwhile, Curry will recover and rest as the Warriors coast by either the injury-depleted Clippers or inexperienced Trail Blazers in the semifinal round. Oklahoma City and San Antonio will brawl in the other half of the bracket, with the Spurs drawing action as minus-330 series favorites.
“It looks like the Warriors are catching a break,” Bogdanovich said. “But Curry might be out longer than two weeks, and I don’t think they can get through the Spurs or OKC without Curry. End of story.”
Of course, a comeback by Curry would change the entire story. At William Hill books, Golden State and San Antonio are 3-2 co-favorites to win the NBA championship. Cleveland is the third choice at 12-5 odds.
With the wild happenings out West, LeBron James and the Cavaliers could be catching the luckiest break of all.
Contact sports betting reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247