2019 NBA Finals Betting Odds — NBA Championship Preview

(USA TODAY Sports)`

The NBA Finals starts Thursday as the Golden State Warriors travel to Toronto to begin their quest for a third straight NBA Championship and their fourth in five years. The Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers to become the first team to reach five straight NBA Finals since the Boston dynasty of the 50s and 60s. On the other hand, the Toronto Raptors are finally over the hump and will make their first NBA Finals appearance in franchise history after dropping the first two games the Eastern Conference Finals.  Here’s a sports betting preview of the NBA Finals.

[See also: NBA Basketball Betting Tips – Learn the Basics, Get NBA Odds]

How They Got Here

The Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers and haven’t lost a game since Kevin Durant left Game 5 of the Rockets series with a calf injury.

Golden State may be on a six-game win streak, but the results are mixed for Golden State backers. During that same span, Golden State covered only three games and pushed a 2-point spread with a 119-117 overtime win to close out the Western Conference Finals. The totals have been equally mixed as the Over/Under split 3-3. The Warriors are 7-8-1 against the number during the playoffs.

Though the Warriors swept the Trail Blazers, the series was much closer than a sweep suggests. In three games, Portland led by 17 or more points, yet the Warriors would find a way to come back with second half surges. Incredibly, Golden State was able to beat Portland swiftly despite trailing in the series more minutes than they led.

While the Warriors devoured the West, Toronto’s triumph may have been less dominant, but it was every bit as impressive. The Raptors had to go through both the Sixers and the Milwaukee Bucks to get here. At one point, the Raptors odds of winning the NBA Finals fell to +2800 after dropping the first two games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Raptors are 10-8 ATS throughout the playoffs and their stellar defense has helped keep 10 of eight games under the total.

The Golden State Warriors opened as one-point road favorites for Game 1 but the spread has flip-flopped to make the Raptors  one-point favorites as of Tuesday morning. The Over/Under is 214.5 after opening 215.

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The Matchup – Golden State -290 (FanDuel Sportsbook), Raptors +235 (BetStars)

To no one’s surprise, the Warriors opened as heavy favorites to win the series even though the Raptors will be afforded the luxury of playing in front of a jubilant home crowd, including basketball’s favorite troll, Drake.  

Drake was able to get the best of Milwaukee and Giannis Antetekounmpo, but the Golden State Warriors present an entirely different challenge.

With Durant sidelined, the Warriors have resorted back to the style of basketball they played during their historic 73-win season in 2015-16. Even if Durant doesn’t play, between Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, Toronto will be required to play their best defensive series of the playoffs if they wish to pull off the upset.

The Raptors have proven to be resilient and present Golden State a task of their own, especially if the Warriors continue to struggle with injuries, something we’ll catch up on shortly.

Toronto walked away ahead in the regular season matchups, winning two out of three games. The Raptors started out with 131-128 win in overtime, but Steph Curry didn’t play. They followed up by winning in dominating fashion with a 113-93 road victory in early December. This time the Warriors were only missing Andre Iguadala.  The Warriors bounced back to end their regular season series with a close two-point victory against a Leonardless-Toronto team. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry combining for 75 points in a close two-point victory against a Leonardless-Toronto team.

One interesting storyline will be to see how rest affects the two teams early in the series. The Warriors will be afforded the luxury of 10 days rest by tip-off of Game 1. The Raptors will be given a five-day break, which could have been cut two days short if they hadn’t come from behind to close Game 6 out. Will the extra rest help Golden State or could rust be an issue for the Warriors’ sharpshooters after more than a week off from competitive basketball?

Ultimately, the real matchup is between offense and defense.

The Warriors are the league’s best offensive team with or without Durant on the court. Golden State led the league with an 114.9 offensive rating during the regular season and the Warriors have even been better (116.4) during the playoffs. With Durant hurt, the Warriors offensive rating dipped to 113.9, which is still better than anyone other than the Rockets during the regular season.

The Raptors will bring a ferocious defense to the table to attempt to stop Golden State. Toronto had a top-5 regular season defense, which could have been better had Leonard played more minutes. In the playoffs, the Raptors have a 102.4 defensive rating, putting them only behind the team they just dealt four losses to. So far, Toronto has played in two of the three slowest-paced games of the playoffs.

Toronto may not receive the kind of rest Golden State is getting, but playing at home should be plenty of help. The Raptors have been one of the best home teams in the playoffs, going 8-2 while outscoring their opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions.

One thing the Raptors can’t afford to do is give up offense rebounds, especially if the Warriors find themselves cold from three-point range. Toronto has grabbed less than half of possible rebounds, which is the lowest rate among teams that reach at least the second round.

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Injury report

The Warriors got to this point despite losing Demarcus Cousins and former MVP Kevin Durant along the way. Kevin Durant is already ruled out for Game 1 and it has been speculated that Durant’s injury might be more severe than initially thought. At this point, it’s probably more likely that Durant plays zero games than any other amount.

The Warriors are more optimistic about Demarcus Cousins. Cousins has recovered from his torn quad quite quickly and is practicing with the team. Cousins is questionable for Game 1 and will likely see minutes eventually.

MVP Odds

Steph Curry -143 (DraftKings Sportsbook) – Ditching iso-ball for quick cuts and passes, the Warriors have made Curry the focal point of their offense, once again. Curry averaged 36.5 ppg during the Western Conference Finals, setting a record for most points in a four-game sweep. It will be interesting to see how the Raptors plan to slow the most prolific shooter in NBA history. With Durant out, we could see a lot Kawhi Leonard’s 7-foot-3 wingspan on Curry.

Kawhi Leonard +250 (DraftKings Sportsbook) – Speaking of Leonard, Leonard has been the MVP of the 2019 playoffs thus far and he’ll be arguably the best player on the court in the NBA Finals. He’s already won one NBA Finals MVP with the San Antonio Spurs, but this might be his best postseason yet.

Toronto wisely managed Leonard’s minutes during the regular season, which is paying dividends so far. He leads the postseason in total minutes played and points scored. Remarkably, Leonard has scored 124 points more than any other player this postseason. If Raptors win the title, Leonard will end up with his second Finals MVP. If you’re thinking about taking Raptors +235 for the series, then you might just want to take Leonard for MVP. Other Raptors’ players are Kyle Lowry +3000 and Pascal Siakam +5000.

Draymond Green +700 and Klay Thompson +2300 (FanDuel Sportsbook) – Throwing aside his in-game complaining, Draymond Green has stepped up in a huge way. Green ranks third in touches (89.8 per game) this postseason as he’s managed to record four triple-doubles. One more triple-double will tie Magic Johnson’s record of five for the most triple-doubles in a postseason in the last 35 years.

When it comes to MVP odds, our own Thomas Casale thinks Thompson presents the best value on the board. With Toronto’s defense likely focused on stopping Curry, Casale might have a point. We already know Thompson is more than capable of putting up huge points. Thompson is as good of a spot-up shooter as the league has ever seen, and he certainly can put up MVP-worthy numbers in the Finals if he get the hot hand.

Kevin Durant +1600 (FanDuel Sportsbook) – Durant would be the favorite to win another NBA Finals MVP if he was healthy. Sportsbooks have given Durant a generous number with his status in question. Though, I’m not sure it’s generous enough. Durant still isn’t running, and as mentioned above, the most likely scenario is Durant missing the entirety of the series. Your money is better spent elsewhere

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