For the first time all season, a team other than the Golden State Warriors is the odds on favorite to win the NBA Finals. It took a wire-to-wire effort on the road in Game 3 from the Toronto Raptors to make them -124 series favorites.
Regardless of how close the series has felt; the Raptors have outmatched the Warriors through three games. Of the 12 quarters played so far, the Raptors have won 10 of them, only losing the third quarter of Games 1 and 2. Golden State will get Klay Thompson back, but it will still be without Kevin Durant, who many are skeptical will play at all in the Finals. Still, the Raptors have outscored the Warriors by an average score of 115-109 – that’s including two games with Thompson.
It still feels like the Warriors are about win Game 4, then rattle off two more wins out of nowhere – for no other reason than they’re the Warriors. That just won’t be the case. Aside from the argument provided by the numbers, Golden State is depleted and outmatched. Even if Thompson plays, how big of a factor will the hamstring be? Per Dr. Alan Beyer via CBSSports.com, Thompson will “not be 100 percent Friday night. Not a chance. But he can play.” In addition, without the likes of Kevon Looney and a fully-healthy Andre Iguodala, who is going to step up to match the depth of the Raptors? Quinn Cook and DeMarcus Cousins made a few plays in Game 2, then both were virtual non-factors in Game 3. Yeah, Klay is going to help, and Steve Kerr will likely tweak his approach, but will that be enough to narrow a gap that’s quietly continued to grow as the series has progressed?
Every historic number and trend would tell you that we’re in for a convincing Warriors win tonight – a win that should turn the tide of the series. This is a historically different series, though. One that can’t be quantified or projected by any metric. More than anything, the Warriors are now coasting on the benefit of the doubt, even if that faith is misplaced. For the first time in five years, the Warriors aren’t the best team in the NBA Finals. Whether they’re favored or not.
Keep all of that in mind when reading tonight’s picks. Let’s get to it.
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*Odds official as of 6/7/19, 3:30 P.M. ET*
Toronto Raptors to COVER +4.5 (-110) @ Golden State Warriors
The Raptors haven’t lost by more than five points at any point in this series and their average margin of victory has been 11.5 points. Even if they lose at Oracle tonight, the Raptors ability to counter the explosive offense of the Warriors and expose their defense will keep the game close. So far, the Raptors are 2-1 against the spread in the Finals. Their 4.5 points for Game 4 are the most they’ve been given in the first three games. From the perspective of series script alone, nothing has happened through the first three games to make Golden State seem more like the vintage Warriors and Toronto look like a team that’s outclassed. It’s actually the opposite.
The bookmakers have given the Warriors a generous home court advantage, but the Raptors have proven they can take the Bay Area crowd out of a game. The fact that Draymond Green seemingly doesn’t take the Raptors seriously either shouldn’t help.
“We just got to continue to battle and win the next game,” Green said via USA Today. “Go back to Toronto, win Game 5, come back to Oracle (Arena), win Game 6 and then celebrate. Fun times ahead.”
The points have bounced around leading up to Game 4, so it might be a good idea to take the 4.5 on the Raptors before tip. Those points should be enough for a winning bet.
Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors OVER 215 (-110)
This series features some of the most talented scorers the game has ever seen, at all spots on the floor. That being said, it should come as no surprise that two of these games have shattered the over and the other very well should have. I discussed it in far more detail on Wednesday’s Rundown, but I’ll touch on it again. Game 2’s over missed by one or one-and-a-half points depending on when or where you placed your bet. If either team scored during a scoreless stretch that ultimately lasted for three minutes and 16 seconds, the bet goes over. Again, you can read more about that unfortunate situation in my Game 3 rundown. So taking that into account, and also figuring that the over/under marks for Games 1 and 3 were exceed by an average of 17.5, the decision to go over or under comes down to whether or not either team is going to get exponentially better on defense or go ice cold on offense.
Expecting an offense drop off or defensive improvement significant enough to constitute the total dropping below 215 doesn’t seem likely. Still, these are the factors to consider. If you feel like Thompson coming back and the resilience of the Warriors is enough to limit points, the under might be your bet. For my money, though, give me the over again.