NBA Western Conference Playoff Series Game 7 Betting Previews
While the Eastern Conference playoffs have already moved into the second round, bettors will be treated to two fantastic Game 7 matchups in the last two Western Conference matchups. Tonight, the Utah Jazz take on the Denver Nuggets, hoping to avoid being the latest team to lose a series after being up 3-1. Tomorrow, Chris Paul looks to take final revenge on his former team, the Houston Rockets, as Oklahoma City go for the upset. Let’s take a look at both of these games, and see where bettors might find some value.
Utah Jazz vs. Denver Nuggets
Utah are listed as 1-point favorites for Game 7, an accurate reflection of just how close this series has become. As recently as last Friday, the Nuggets looked utterly lost. Denver put in arguably its worst performance of the whole season, losing 124-87 to the Jazz in a game marked by a clear and obvious lack of effort on the part of Denver. The Nuggets responded in Game 4, but when an improved effort still ended in a loss, the season looked as good as over. However, there was a silver lining in the defeat. Head Coach Mike Malone made his first effective adjustment all series, moving Monte Morris and Jeremi Grant into the starting lineup, and the offense exploded. Jamal Murray had his first of two 50-point efforts in a losing cause, but the seeds were there for a comeback. Since then, the Nuggets have won two straight, behind the continued spectacular play of Murray, who averaged 46 PPG in the two victories. The defense, too, has shown serious improvement. After giving up at least 124 points in four straight games, the Nuggets have held the Jazz to back-to-back 107-point efforts. In Game 6, the team was buoyed by the return of Gary Harris. He only played 21 minutes, but in his time on the floor the team’s defensive rating was a fantastic 88.4. It’s a small sample size, but over the rest of the series, the Nuggets’ defensive rating has been a laughable 128.2. If Harris can continue to contribute on defense, the series may turn completely.
However, all is not lost for the Jazz. Donovan Mitchell has been basically unstoppable all series long, averaging a league-leading 38.7 PPG in the playoffs. He’s shooting a phenomenal 54.8% from the field and 55.4% from distance. Also, as can be valuable in a Game 7 situation, the Jazz continue to have a serious free-throw advantage. Utah has an offensive free-throw rate of 30.0%, a big edge over Denver at only 20.1%. In what should be a close game, this could easily be the difference down the stretch.
With so little to choose between the two teams, bettors may want to look to the total here. The OVER is 5-1 so far in this series, with the only UNDER hitting when Denver meekly put up 87 points in Game 3. The line sits at 218, down from Game 6’s total of 220, as books seem to anticipate a somewhat tight and nervous Game 7. However, there’s little to suggest the scoring will slow. Both teams are shooting the lights out. Utah has knocked down 44.9% of their three-point attempts, while Denver has made 44.3% of their long distance attempts. Even in the friendly shooting backdrop of the NBA bubble, those marks are 3.9% and 4.5% higher than the next closest team in the playoffs. Beyond that, the two most electric offensive players, Murray and Mitchell, look dead set on continue their personal shootout. Neither team has given any indication that these players can be stopped over the course of a full 48 minutes. These two will certainly have the ball in their hands down the stretch, and should help get over the number once again.
Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City dug deep in Game 6, erasing a nine-point third quarter deficit before hanging on late, behind some clutch play from future Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul, to win 104-100 and force an intriguing Game 7 on Wednesday. There’s a ton of history between these two teams, who have dueled in the playoffs in recent years. James Harden and first-year Rocket Russell Westbrook both made their names in Oklahoma City, while Chris Paul was sent to the Thunder by Houston in order to acquire Westbrook. Westbrook’s departure came about somewhat in tandem with the exit of Paul George to the Clippers, and both trades have worked out spectacularly for the Thunder, who completely retooled their roster and have emerged as a seriously tough out in these playoffs.
The revenge factor clearly favors the Thunder here. Chris Paul, like Russell Westbrook, is one of the most competitive players in the entire league. However, unlike Westbrook, who still has love in his heart for the Thunder and its fans, has not much good to say about a Houston organization who deemed him surplus to requirements, despite almost helping them take down the dynastic Golden State Warriors. Paul was on a mission in Game 6, scoring 28 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and dishing out three assists, all without committing a single turnover. He was critical in keeping his team focused as the Rockets continued to pull ahead. There’s no doubt this is personal for Paul, and there’s every reason to expect another virtuoso performance here.
At first blush, one may assume that pace could be a determining factor in this game. The Rockets love to run, while Paul and the Thunder employ a more methodical approach. However, it should be noted that the UNDER was barely threatened in two of Houston’s three wins, and is 4-2 overall. Houston often do not get enough respect when it comes to their improved defensive effort. While conventional wisdom suggests a defensive slugfest favors the Thunder, Houston actually have the best defensive rating in the entire playoffs. That said, there’s no doubt that Oklahoma City has dictated the pace for most of this series. The pace rating sits at 100.9 over the first six games, while Houston’s regular season pace rating was 104.0. Oklahoma City’s was only 99.6. While Houston has shown it can win this way, there’s no doubt that the slower pace is keeping this series more competitive than it may otherwise be. Game 7 matchups can often be slowed down even further. Given the way the series has played out, and the Thunder’s ability to control tempo, taking the points in what should be a hotly-contested battle makes the most sense. The fact is, the Thunder are playing the better basketball. Oklahoma City has won three of the last four games, and are +32 in rebounding margin over those four games. There’s always been concern that Houston’s small-ball lineup could be worn down over the course of a long seven-game series, and it’s certainly trending in that direction.