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Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Friday, May 25, 2018 at 12:00 PM

If you saw Chris Paul walk gingerly off the court Thursday night after his Houston Rockets beat the Golden State Warriors to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference Finals, you knew that evaluating his true worth was going to become very important for Saturday’s Game Six, and then again in Game Seven if he can’t go the rest of the way.

Oddsmakers and sharps immediately assumed he would either miss Game Six, or play at such a reduced level of effectiveness that it was going to hurt the Rockets badly. Golden State opened at -10.5 and was bet up to -11. That’s after they lost outright laying just 8.5 points back in Game Four.

Big adjustment from the market prices, and an even bigger distance from actual on-court happenings given Houston won the last two games and three of the last four.

So, how many points is Paul really worth?

Most casual fans don’t know how to answer this question. Too many just look at a player’s scoring average and subtract that. If a guy is averaging 15 points a game, he must be worth 15 points. Right? WRONG!

Even the best NBA players are only worth a few points a game in terms of real impact as represented by computer or Power Ratings. Teams know how to adjust. The guys coming in off the bench are professional players. Coaches who tweak approach and strategies can negate much of the impact. Don’t forget that many bench players are worse scorers, but better rebounders and defenders than high profile “superstars.” Losing a star hurts, but it’s not always a killer. Look at how well Boston has played this postseason without Kyrie Irving.

The problem here is that losing Chris Paul COULD be a killer to Houston’s hopes. The team is down to a very short rotation because only the best of the Rockets can beat a generational power like Golden State. Did you notice only SEVEN Rockets saw minutes in Game Five? If Paul is out, somebody who wasn’t good enough to even play Thursday will see a lot of meaningful minutes Saturday.

Also, Paul is exactly the kind of player Houston needs on the floor right now.

*He gets on opponents’ nerves, and you have to rattle Golden State to beat them.

*He does that while getting “veteran respect” from the refs, which helps to keep him out of foul trouble. A lesser player off the bench is going to foul out and get technicals for doing the same things Paul does on a nightly basis.

*He’s an experienced hand when experience matters more than ever.

*He can still hit treys, which is something James Harden may be too tired to do any more. Well, Paul could still hit treys before his hamstring injury.

That’s why we’re seeing Golden State by 10.5 or 11 in Game Six, and why there aren’t any sharps jumping on the Rockets at those numbers. Golden State runs away and hides from opponents who can’t keep up. Houston may not be able to keep up without Paul.

Very tricky for handicappers. Normally, Chris Paul might be worth 2-3 points in the line. Less during the regular season against teams Houston can still beat without him. Here, his loss might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Houston’s losses were by 13 and 41 points in this series. Playing without Paul could be worth significantly more than the early market adjustment.

How am I going to play this game? Like other sharps, I’m waiting to hear more about Paul’s injury. There’s no reason to jump in early. A bet on Golden State -11 is going to look dumb if Paul was just dealing with a temporary issue. A bet on Houston plus 11 is going to look dumb if Paul is on crutches and the rest of the team decides its best to blow off Game Six to save everything for Game Seven Monday.

I’ll have a game day release for clients based on my read of the market and discussions with sharps. You can purchase daily BEST BETS from your friend in Las Vegas right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about long term packages that offer the best value. Those are available for the NBA, or for Major League Baseball.

Game day basketball continues all the way through the Finals that will begin next week. Also beginning next week, the Stanley Cup Finals featuring the Vegas Golden Knights. My home city is even more nutso about the team now than they were the last time I talked about it. You’ll read a lot of stories about how sports books could lose as much as $5 million to $7 million if the Golden Knights win it all. Let me tell you something. Sports books (and casinos) know that something like that is just a temporary loan. Winners will have trouble holding onto those winnings through the coming football season. And, they’ll all bet the Golden Knights again next season as a show of support. VGK won’t win the Stanley Cup every season even if they win this one.

Sharps know how to hold onto the money they win. Squares fritter it all away over time. Remember to think and bet like a sharp! Thanks for reading. See you Monday.  

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