Hopefully basketball can be the one and only focus on Saturday night for Game Seven of the series between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers. A series that has seen three close games, three blowouts, and an off-the-court display of bigotry culminates in a winner-take-all seventh game from the City of Angels. Sportsbooks have installed the Clippers as seven-point favorites with a total of 209.5 for the chance to move on to the second round. Home teams are 91-23 straight up in Game Sevens in NBA history.
The combined margin of victory in Games One, Three, and Six was seven points, while Games Two, Four, and Five saw a point disparity of 71 points between the winners and the losers. Game Five, a 10-point victory for the Clippers, came on the heels of Commissioner Adam Silver’s announcement that Clippers owner Donald Sterling would be banned from participating in NBA functions for the rest of his life and that the steps were taking place to force Sterling to sell his franchise after some racist comments he made were recorded and released. The Clippers rallied around each other to push the Warriors to the brink, but a 100-99 victory in Game Six forced Saturday’s win or go home matchup. The win was Golden State’s first win in an elimination game in their last seven tries.
Stephen Curry had 24 points in the win, which seems like a rather low total for him, but he has averaged just 21.3 points per game in the series. Curry has really had to work for his shots, held to just 10 in Game Five. After shooting 47.1 percent for the season and 42.4 percent from three-point range, Curry is down to 44.4 percent from the field and 38 percent from three. The Clippers, the league’s top three-point defense during the regular season, have held the Warriors to just 33.3 percent from beyond the arc.
One of the huge keys entering Game Six is the play of Draymond Green. Green avoided foul trouble in Game Six and held Blake Griffin to just 29 percent shooting. Green’s physicality allowed him to push Griffin further away from the basket and it showed in the shooting numbers. Green also registered five steals. Studies have shown that there is a home-court bias for officials, so if Green and the Warriors aren’t as fortunate on the road, Griffin could put up quite a stat line.
Foul trouble could be even more of an issue if Jermaine O’Neal can’t go for the Warriors. At best, he won’t be 100 percent after hyperextending his knee in the second quarter of Game Six. On the other side with injury news, Chris Paul is clearly not 100 percent for the Clippers and it is showing as this series goes on. Through the first three games, Paul had 55 points and 28 assists. In the last three games, Paul has 45 points and 21 assists, including a nine-point effort in Game Six. He injured his thumb in Game Six to go along with a nagging hamstring problem, so don’t expect him to be at full strength on Saturday.
The Clippers haven’t had to face a lot of on-court adversity over the last three months. Since February 5, the Clippers have lost just 10 games, three of them in this series. In the current 2-2-1-1-1 NBA seven-game series playoff format, home teams are 10-4 in the seventh game of the series. In the last 26 Game Seven matchups, the home team is 16-10 ATS and 16-7 ATS as a favorite of four or more points.
The Clippers have been a strong bet following losses. Over their last 27 games following a loss, they are 20-7 ATS. The Warriors are 6-2 ATS in their last eight against teams with a winning record. They are also 7-3 ATS as a playoff underdog of 5.0-10.5 points in their last 10 and 6-2 ATS in games with one day of rest in between.
Pick: Golden State Warriors
The Clippers attempted the second-most free throws, yet had the 26th-best free throw shooting percentage. In a game that will likely be tight, and require free throws at the end for the cover, this is a glaring issue for the Clippers. Even though the series has lacked consistency, each team has similar performance statistics through six games and the declining health of Chris Paul will have an impact for the Clippers. They should win, but it likely won’t come easy.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.