Game 5 has invoked more intrigue than any other game in this series.
Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Kevin Durant is slated to play on Monday night. He’ll make his first appearance since Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Obviously, he hasn’t been in any game-like situations in over a month, but with his Golden State Warriors down 3-1 to the Toronto Raptors, Durant is going to have to get re-acclimated – and fast. If he does, he’ll have a chance to help his team make history for the first time since he was on the wrong side of it, which in turn, could help re-define his tenure with the Warriors.
Golden State has no momentum – they’ll have to take two-of-three, including a Game 7, in Toronto and they’ll have to combat a team that has outscored them by an average of 112.5-104.8 through four games. Yeah, Durant hasn’t played in any of those games, but he’ll have to come back virtually rust-less, against Kawhi Leonard most likely, for his team to have a chance in Game 5. The question tonight becomes, what is the likelihood he comes back from a serious lower-body injury and plays like he did before he was hurt? If he does, are the Raptors, a team that beat Golden State in both regular season match-ups between the two teams with Durant, a team that has already reached a peak that can’t be matched? In other words, while there’s a chance Durant runs it back like the Warriors did on him in 2016 when they essentially forced him to join them, there’s an equally-likely chance that his return came too late.
When placing your bets tonight, consider the Durant effect. Even if he’s rusty and looks shaky, his presence alone might be enough to make the offense around him play freer, which could change the complexion of this series. Then again, if the Raptors decide to pressure Durant right out of the gate and he looks rattled, the offense could end up in a state of disarray, much like it had been at times through the first four games.
Taking all of that into account, here are my favorite bets ahead of Game 5.
Need help filling out your daily fantasy lineup? Click here for our Game 5 DFS picks.
**Odds official as of 6/10/19, 4:30 ET**
Toronto Raptors to WIN (-102) vs. Golden State Warriors
The Warriors have garnered most of the headlines throughout this series, mainly because this is the first time over the duration of their dynasty that they’ve been on the wrong side of injury. While that’s happened, though, the Raptors have quietly outmatched the again-defending champs and put themselves in the driver’s seat to win their first-ever NBA Championship. It’s happened in two series that the Warriors have been involved in, still, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in any series, let alone the NBA Finals without home-court advantage, is potentially the most difficult ask of an NBA team. Factor in the fact that Golden State is facing off with a team like this Toronto team – a group with an entire country on its shoulders – and it’s going to be damn tough.
Kevin Durant, for the first time in his career, is set to play the role of the wild card. No one is really sure what he’s going to look like after a nine-game hiatus, or if whatever he’s able to give is going to be enough to down this Raptors team and make the nation of Canada slightly nervous. All that’s certain is he will play, which will make the Raptors have to tweak their defensive approach at least slightly. As I write this, FanDuel has shifted the Warriors to a 1-point favorite, which not only shows just how much an effect Durant has on this game, but how conflicted the bookmakers are about giving the Warriors too significant of an edge. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes every 15 minutes up until tip. Regardless of odds, media or injuries, though, the Raptors have continued to show up and prove they can not only run with the Warriors, but they can beat them. They even did the seemingly impossible in Game 4 and used the Warriors’ failsafe of the patented third-quarter run against them, outscoring Golden State 37-21 out of the break to take a 79-67 lead.
The Raptors are 3-1 against the spread so far this series, but this spread is essentially a money line with only one point. I’ll sacrifice the point if it’s the difference between -115 and -102. In a series where the Raptors are 3-1, they’re obviously 1-1 following a win this season and 1-1 at home. As I mentioned in the intro, the Raptors have outscored the Warriors by an average of 112.5-104.8. It’s hard to use numbers or metrics that are applicable here, because so few are. This series is one that seems to be different before every game.
Still, the fact that the Raptors have been the better team for the entirety of this series has been a storyline that’s flown under the radar. Still, I don’t expect that to change that tonight, even with Durant. Toronto has a chance to close it out and finally steal the headlines, which is what they’re going to do. They’re going to steal NBA supremacy from a team that has dominated it, at home, in front of the politest nation in the world. If I have to write another NBA Rundown, you’ll know I failed. I’m pretty confident this will be the last one of the season, though, so I’m going to double down on my prediction and thank you all for reading this season. It’s been a fun ride. (Lol Thursday might be awkward, but you can’t say I don’t ride or die with my picks.)
Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors OVER 214.5 points (-110)
The over is 2-2 in this series, which means I’ve got a .500 winning percentage when picking the over. I haven’t gone under yet and I won’t go under for Game 5, mainly because great defense hasn’t equated to the low totals in this series, it happens because there are random points when these offensive juggernauts forget how to shoot. It happens far too often – DeMarcus Cousins misses a lay-up, then Pascal Siakam misses a shot in close, then Quinn Cook misses a mid-range jumper, then Danny Green misses a wide-open three and it basically goes on like that until Klay Thompson or Kawhi Leonard bail their respective team out. It’s been the most infuriating thing about watching this series, but still, when it either doesn’t happen or doesn’t last as long, these teams shatter the total mark. In games where the over has hit, the average total is 229.5.
Again, this bet doesn’t come down to whether or not you think these teams are going to play great defense and limit scoring. The issue here is more so whether or not you think these teams are going to shoot the ball efficiently for a majority of the game. The death sentence for these totals has been inefficiency. In a close-out game though, with Kevin Durant on the floor, no less, I’d feel better betting on these teams to play a polished game offensively than banking on the nastiness we saw in the first half of Game 4 and for three minutes and 16 seconds in Game 2 to take center stage. (I’ll never forget how long that three minutes and 16 seconds felt.)