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The Golden State Warriors eased into the Western Conference Finals for the third season in a row by defeating the Utah Jazz.
Without the presence of coach Steve Kerr, the Bay Area outfit could have been vulnerable on the court with Mike Brown assuming lead duties courtside.
The Warriors entered the post-season with the best record in the NBA after winning 67 of their 82 contests in the regular campaign, including a run of 15 victories in their 16 matches.
As a result of earning the top seed in the Western Conference, they were handed a favourable draw against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Although Portland boasted Damian Lillard in their line-up – he and his team-mates had no answer for the scoring power of Golden State, with Steph Curry and Kevin Durant driving their side to a whitewash victory to set up a meeting against the Jazz
Quin Snyder’s men boasted the best defensive record in the NBA during the regular season and had thwarted the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
However, Utah had no answer for the depth of the offensive skill and quality of the Warriors, with the Bay Area outing easing to victory in four matches to reach the Western Conference Final.
Brown and his team will now await the outcome of the clash between the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs to determine their opponent in the final two.
The Warriors have time to address their gameplan and assess any potential weaknesses that either of those sides could expose in their bid to reach the NBA Finals for the third season on the bounce.
The Warriors are simply the most talented side in the NBA. The quality they possess on court can overwhelm even the best of teams in the league, with the fearsome foursome leading the charge.
Curry did not have the huge statistical year of the previous campaign, but he remains at the peak of his powers on the court, excelling the post-season to drive his side past the Trail Blazers and the Jazz.
Portland made the mistake of allowing him free reign on the court and he was able to shoot with ease to rack up the points, especially in the final two matches of the series.
The Jazz made life slightly harder for the 28-year-old, but he was still able to remain accurate enough from distance to notch the crucial scores.
Curry has fewer minutes under his legs this term due to the ease of his side’s victories in the first two rounds, therefore he should be fresher for the tougher challenges ahead.
However, the key issue this term is the arrival of Durant easing the pressure on Curry and Klay Thompson to put points on the board. The 2014 MVP came through an injury scare towards the end of the campaign, missing 19 games in the process.
The Warriors were careful with his health against the Trail Blazers, but he returned to full fitness against the Jazz to play all four matches, including a 38-point performance in game three guiding his side to the nine-point victory.
With Durant and Curry operating at their best along with Thompson on the perimeter – it will take a huge effort to stand in the way of the Bay Area outfit. Adding Draymond Green’s defensive presence into the fold – it will take an extraordinary effort to keep the Warriors from the NBA Finals.
Both of the sides remaining in the Western Conference are more than capable of matching the Warriors, with strong offensive players of their own.
The Spurs’ charge has been brilliantly led by Kawhi Leonard, while the Rockets boast MVP candidate James Harden and his free-scoring ability on the court. The two sides have gone blow-for-blow in their series, which remains evenly poised, with the victor leaving battle-hardened for the Warriors.
Whereas Golden State are without their coach, both of their potential opponents have experience on the sideline.
Gregg Popovich and Mike D’Antoni have put forward daunting gameplans for each other in the Conference Semi-Finals and whoever advances from their clash will certainly have a few tricks up their sleeve to limit the Warriors and their potent offense.
San Antonio have a solid defensive record, while the Rockets were second behind only the Warriors in points scored in the regular campaign.
Both teams have the talent to expose Golden State if they are not at their best and the ease of their passage in the previous rounds could catch them off guard in the early stages of the series.
One of the key aspects in the Bay Area outfit’s defeat in the NBA Finals was coping with the pressure of being favourites.
The Warriors dominated the Cleveland Cavaliers to storm into a 3-1 lead, but were not able to get over the line in the final three matches, allowing Tyronn Lue’s men to snatch the crown.
Following the addition of Durant there is even more pressure on Golden State to atone for their defeat last term and regain their Championship – with anything other than a victory deemed a failure.
The Warriors are the leading candidates to go all the way and clinch their second NBA Championship in three years due to their form and depth of talent.
They have four players who are more than capable of winning a match single-handed, making life incredibly daunting for their opponents.
For all the talent the Warriors do have – there should be caution given their record against the Spurs this term, losing two of their three contests. Should Popovich’s men advance from the Conference Semi-Finals they could present a tough challenge for the Bay Area outfit and their hopes of a third-straight trip to the NBA Finals.
However, fatigue could be an issue for whoever progresses from that contest and facing a fresh Warriors side, operating at the peak of their powers may be too much to overcome.
Therefore backing Golden State at 13/100 1.13 -750 0.13 -7.50 0.13 to claim the Western Conference crown with TopBet sportsbook is the only punt to take given the depth of quality they possess.
Golden State Warriors To Win Western Conference
Odds: 13/100 1.13 -750 0.13 -7.50 0.13
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