Today's Top Picks: Rockets win big behind a huge James Harden performance and more Friday best bets
Also, watch SportsLine on CBS Sports HQ live at 6 p.m. ET for all today's best bets
While fandom is a key aspect of sports, it has two sides. Rooting against a team can be just as much fun -- and sometimes more -- than rooting for one. Like many NBA fans outside the Bay Area, I've been rooting against the Warriors. Not because I don't like them, but because one of the significant parts of sports is seeing the underdog topple the favorite, and in the NBA, where the better team advances far more often than not, the chance to see it happen is even rarer.
But if the Rockets do beat Golden State tonight, and then beat them in Game 7, it's going to feel hollow. The Kevin Durant calf injury will loom over the series as an asterisk for all time. "Houston won, but they wouldn't have won without Kevin Durant getting hurt," they'll say. Sure, those same people would ignore that Houston may have beaten Golden State last year if Chris Paul hadn't suffered an injury of his own, but it's beside the point.
Durant's injury changes a lot of things, and while it's a relief that it wasn't as serious as it seemed at the time -- in hindsight, Reggie Miller being so convinced it was an Achilles should have been the only indication we needed to know it wasn't -- it takes something away from this series, which is too bad.
Ironically enough, now I'm rooting a bit for the Warriors. I'd like to see them overcome the loss of Durant against another great team, and further prove they're one of the greatest teams of all time.
But will I be rooting for them tonight? All odds via Westgate.
1. Golden State Warriors at Houston Rockets: Rockets -7
There's a large part of me that hates making this play because it feels like a square play, but it turns out it isn't. The spread opened with Houston favored by 5.5, but the line has grown to 7 despite the fact that 60 percent of the money has been bet on the Warriors as I write this.
Simply put, the Warriors were able to hold off the Rockets without Durant at home thanks to the energy of their home crowd. On the road, without Durant, with Stephen Curry still being bothered by his finger injury, and the Rockets with their backs against the wall, I think we're in line for Houston to win big.
The SportsLine Projection Model has simulated this matchup 10,000 times and has come up with leans both against the spread and on the total, the latter of which cashes in 55 percent of simulations. Be sure to check out the computer's plays before locking in your picks.
2. James Harden: Over 39 points +124
To go along with the Rockets pick, I fully expect Harden to go off tonight. Harden made a lot of the "correct" basketball plays in Game 5 to help his team win the game, but it didn't work out in Houston's favor, and he just didn't score enough down the stretch himself. Tonight, with Houston facing elimination, I think he's getting at least 40. He's averaged 34.8 points per game in this series, and though he's only surpassed 40 points once, it was in Game 3 -- another game in Houston in which the Rockets simply couldn't afford to lose, and he stepped up with 41 points. He'll do it again tonight.
Switching gears, UFC 237 is on tap for Saturday, and before locking in your picks, you'll want to see what SportsLine MMA expert Kyle Marley has to say. $100 bettors who have followed Marley the past year are up more than $21,000. Seriously. After going 11-1 at UFC Fight Night 151, Marley has locked in his plays for UFC 237. See them all at SportsLine.
3. Cincinnati Reds at San Francisco Giants: Giants +132
Luis Castillo is starting for the Reds tonight, and he's been a revelation for Cincinnati. Through eight starts he has an ERA of 1.97 and is striking out 30.3 percent of the hitters he's facing. Still, as good as he's been, odds are he's going to regress a bit at some point. Plus, the Reds aren't that good of a team! They're only 16-22 this season, and that includes a record of 7-14 on the road. There's no way they should be this large a favorite in San Francisco.
SportsLine data scientist Stephen Oh is on a 43-25 heater with his MLB picks, and he's also slotting this matchup in his Friday best bets. Which side is he taking, and which other two picks join his Reds-Giants winner? Find that out only at SportsLine.
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