The Western Conference bracket has gone as planned with the Top two teams in the conference – who were also the top two teams in the NBA, advancing to round two after easy round one outings. But the second round hasn’t been easy out West as it has been in the East.

The top-seeded Houston Rockets lost at home in Game 2 while the defending champions Golden State Warriors were ambushed in Game 3. With the Rockets and Warriors up by just 2-1 heading to Game 4, Chris Paul and Kevin Durant played big for their respective teams as Houston and Golden State took commanding 3-1 leads in their respective series.

Everybody expected the Rockets and Warriors to square off in the Western Conference Finals and they are not about to disappoint. With Game 5 returning back to their respective home courts, this could be the last game of the season for the Pelicans and Jazz.

Will the Rockets and Warriors end their series at home? Or Will the underdogs have one more upset left in them? Check out the odds, our previews and picks for May 8, 2018.

Utah Jazz at Houston Rockets, Game 5

Odds: Rockets -1100, Jazz +700

The Houston Rockets are one win away from advancing to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2015 when the Golden State Warriors eliminated them in 5 games en route to the Dubs’ first NBA title. Back then, Chris Paul was still with the Los Angeles Clippers. Now that he’s with Houston, he could be the difference maker. But first things first for the Rockets.

After leading the NBA with 65 wins during the regular season, the Rockets have received little resistance in the playoffs. They dropped a game against the Wolves in Round 1 and were surprisingly upset by the Jazz in Game 2 of the current series. Other than those two games, the Rockets have been dominant, winning seven playoff games by an average of 15.4 points per game.

We talked about Chris Paul earlier and for the Rockets, he has been huge in the playoffs. After playing just 58 games during the regular season with minor injuries, CP3 has played every playoff game for the Rockets.

Paul is averaging 19.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists per game for the Rockets in the postseason. We know that he has always been capable of putting up those numbers but playing alongside Harden hasn’t affected the point god’s brilliance at all. In fact, he’s provided Harden the much-needed scoring support, with the Bearded One struggling a bit in the postseason.

Harden opened the playoffs with a monster 44 point effort in Game 1 against the Minnesota Timberwolves. But he’s struggled to shoot the ball ever since. Harden’s overall field goal shooting hasn’t suffered that much as he’s shooting 41.7% in the postseason as compared to 44.9% during the regular season. But his three-point shooting has taken a big dip from round 1 to round 2 as it’s regressed from 38.5% against the Wolves to 32.4% against the Jazz.

Clint Capela had his breakout game not just of this postseason but of his entire playoff career. Houston’s starting center had 12 points, 15 rebounds, and 6 blocks in a career-high 37 minutes in Game 4. With Utah having the universally recognized best defensive player in the NBA in Rudy Gobert, Capela’s interior presence is a must for the Rockets to win.

Speaking of Gobert, the Stifle Tower has been a non-factor in this series as the Rockets have averaged 107.7 points per game in the series and have scored at least 100 points in each game. Gobert has averaged 12.3 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game in the series, not far from his regular season numbers. But if the Jazz want to extend the series to a Game 6, Gobert must make an impact.

The Utah defense suffered a big blow with Dante Exum’s injury in Game 4. Exum was the best defender on James Harden with the Beard shooting 1-11 with Exum as the primary defender and him shooting 49% against other defenders. If Exum is out, then Harden could have the big night Utah doesn’t want.

Ricky Rubio’s absence has dealt a big blow to the Jazz in this series. Rubio was averaging 14 points and 7 assists per game in the playoffs before he got hurt. Sources say he is close to returning but if he doesn’t play Game 5, then we may not see him return until next season.

Our Pick

Credit Donovan Mitchell for his effort in trying to carry the Jazz in this series. But if he was able to do so against the Thunder, it won’t be enough against the high powered Rockets. Houston simply has too many weapons at Mike D’Antoni’s disposal. The Jazz don’t have the answers. It’s been a great run for Donovan Mitchell and the Jazz but all will come to an end in Game 5.
We’re picking the Rockets to win big in Game 5 at home.

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New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors, Game 5

Odds: Warriors -1000, Pelicans +700

The Golden State Warriors are right where they want to be in this postseason. After injuries to key players late in the regular season, the Warriors looked like they were at their most vulnerable ever. But the return of Stephen Curry has put everything back in order and the Warriors look like they’re going to stroll their way to the next round.

After missing round one of the playoffs, Curry returned in Game 2 of this series and right away his presence was felt. The Dubs are 2-1 with Curry this postseason and his shooting has dictated the outcome. Curry made 9-19 ( 47.3% ) of his three-pointers during the victories while he shot just 3-9 ( 33.3% ) in Game 3 where they lost.

Durant topping the defending champs in scoring, averaging 28.8 points per game in this series thanks in part to New Orleans putting the much smaller Jrue Holiday on him for most past of the games. Holiday did a good job in Game 3, holding KD to 8-18 shooting but other than that, Durant’s height has been the difference in the match-up.

Durant has shot 53% against shorter defenders but only 40% against taller defenders. If the Pelicans want to slow him down, they need to put a big man on him. But that would mean putting Anthony Davis on KD and that takes away the many things that Davis does for the Pelicans. If Boogie Cousins were not injured, it would have been a different story.

Klay Thompson has struggled thru the first four games of the series, shooting just .364 from the floor including .286 from behind the three-point line. While that looks good on paper, that’s bad news for the Pelicans as we know what Thompson is capable of doing. And with him struggling that bad so far, he’s due for a big night. It could be Game 5 at home, the closer.

Anthony Davis has had an MVP season. But his average has dipped from 33.0 points in Round 1 to 26.3 points per game this series. Remember that he scored 33 in Game 3 which the Pelicans won. If New Orleans wants to play at home again, Davis must have a big night for his team.

Jrue Holiday has been consistently good for the Pelicans but Nikola Mirotic has been the missing link in this series. He’s only averaging 11.33 points in their three losses and shooting 36.6% from the floor in those games. Mirotic averaged 18.3 points per game against the Blazers and shot 57.1% from the floor during that series.

You can’t take anything away from the Pelicans in this series. They’re playing without their all-star center in DeMarcus Cousins. With Cousins playing, Anthony Davis could have helped to defend KD.

Our Pick

Without the length to minimize Durant’s output, New Orleans is helpless. Expect the Splash Brothers to come out shooting in Game 5 but even if they struggle, the Dubs are just going to ride with KD’s offense. The Warriors are too experienced for the Pelicans.
We’re picking Golden State to win by double digits here.

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