An NBA Finals matchup that looked unlikely two weeks ago — Raptors vs. Warriors — begins on Thursday night at Scotiabank Arena.
Toronto reached this point the hard way, starting in Round 2. Down 2-1 to the 76ers, the Raps prevailed in three of the next four games. They started to offer nascent hints of being a proverbial team of destiny in Game 7. That contest brought a storybook ending for Toronto, one in which their prized offseason acquisition vaulted the team to the next level of the postseason. Kawhi Leonard‘s dramatic, off-balance game-winning bucket took several bounces before finding the net and sent the Raptors to the Eastern Finals.
Then, what Toronto accomplished over a four-game stretch in the ECF against a previously dominant Bucks squad was arguably even more impressive. The Raptors caught fire after going down 2-0 in the series and never looked back. Some defensive adjustments, including Leonard focusing on Giannis Antetokounmpo, helped lead to a shocking four-game winning streak.
Then, the Warriors forged an impressive path in their own right. Rarely does an injury to a superstar player, especially during the postseason, lead to improved performance. Yet that’s seemingly been the case with the defending champs. Golden State lost Kevin Durant to a calf injury in Game 6 against the Rockets and proceeded to rattle off five straight wins. That included a four-game bulldozing of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals.
Durant and DeMarcus Cousins — the latter of whom bowed out in Round 1 against the Clippers with a quadriceps injury — are both expected to play at some point during the Finals. In Durant’s absence, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green picked up their games to lead Golden State on its torrid run. Curry has scored over 30 points in each of the five full games Durant has missed. Meanwhile, Green double-doubled at a minimum in all four games versus Portland. That included a pair of triple-doubles to close out the sweep.
With the stage set, we’ll offer some series-centered proposition predictions and corresponding odds at DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook. In addition to offering a full selection of bet types on each individual Finals game, both operators are featuring multiple team- and player-level prop bets for the series.
To Win Series
PlayPicks Prediction: Warriors
Odds: -290 (FanDuel)/ -286 (DraftKings)
Analysis: The Warriors will have to really earn a third consecutive championship given how well the Raptors are playing coming in and Golden State’s own key injuries. Granted, the defending champs were able to get by just fine without Durant and Cousins against the Blazers. Yet their respective availability will be pivotal to GSW’s chances versus Toronto. The good news for the Dubs is that both players are likely to return around Game 3 if the latest reports are accurate.
Oddsmakers are still showing a healthy dose of confidence in the Warriors even with the uncertain status of both stars. Then, the massive intangible that is Golden State’s Finals experience will certainly come into play the tighter and deeper the series gets. While Durant remains out, look for defensive specialist Andre Iguodala (slated to be ready to return in Game 1 from his own calf issue) to test Leonard with his defense in a way the Bucks couldn’t.
If Golden State does indeed get Durant and Cousins back relatively early in the series, they’ll lay claim to the deeper overall roster. That includes greater offensive balance and depth in the first unit specifically. That should especially play a factor if Iguodala is able to make Leonard’s life difficult and Klay Thompson takes primary responsibility for Kyle Lowry.
PlayPicks Prediction: Stephen Curry
Odds: -143 (FanDuel)
Analysis: Curry averaged 36.5 points on 47.1 percent shooting, including 42.1 percent from three-point range, in the Western Conference Finals. Just as impressive was the fact he was simultaneously a force on the glass and as a facilitator. He averaged 8.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists against Portland. Curry sports a 34.2 percent usage rate in the five full games Durant has missed thus far this postseason. And he still generated a team-high 27.4 percent figure in that category when sharing the floor with KD this season. That helps support the notion he’ll remain heavily involved even when his teammate makes his expected return. Then, while he put up a clunker in his one game against the Raps this season, Curry is no stranger to success when facing Lowry, either. For example, he shot 51.4 and 46.9 percent against Toronto in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, respectively (four games).
Other Appealing Props
Series Correct Score
PlayPicks Prediction: Warriors 4-2
Odds: +240 (FanDuel)/ +250 (DraftKings)
Comment: Raptors push Warriors early, especially while Durant/Cousins remain out. But Golden State’s championship pedigree enables them to pull out the series in six.
PlayPicks Prediction: Six games
Odds: +190 (FanDuel)
Comment: See Series Correct Score prop.
Series Top Points Scorer
Prediction: Kawhi Leonard
Odds: +130 (FanDuel)
Comment: It may take him a bit more work to get there, but Leonard will once again churn out elite-level offensive production. His 33.3 percent postseason usage rate should remain at about the same level, if not exceed it, with the highest possible stakes at hand. Leonard took 22 or more shots in four of six ECF games and has put up as many as 39 during the current playoff run. With Leonard averaging 37.0 points on 58.3 percent shooting (including 50.0 percent from distance) in his one game against the Warriors this season — as well as the Raptors’ already heavy reliance on him — I like the idea of getting plus money on Kawhi racking up the most points.