Golden State Warriors may be one of the greatest teams ever assembled, and there starting five consist of All-Stars including Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins. Warriors are looking to join NBA’s elite three-peat championship company, and cement themselves as one of the best dynasty’s ever.
However, as a sports bettor, I often find myself looking for “value” bets. And in this particular NBA Finals, the Toronto Raptors’ led by Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry have a very legitimate shot at winning. I will give several reasons why I think the Toronto Raptors will make this a competitive series, in what I expect to go at least 6 or 7 games.
Kevin Durant is injured for Game 1 and may also be out for Game 2. DeMarcus Cousins is questionable for Game 1 and will not be as efficient with his limited minutes. Also, I’d rather have Cousins try to score in the paint as opposed to having Steph Curry or Klay Thompson shoot three-balls.
Raptors Three-Point Shooting
Raptors ranked #7 in three point shooting percentage in regular season, but have been more efficient in the playoffs – thanks in part to the shooting of Lowry, VanVleet, Gasol, Leonard, Powell and Ibaka. Although Danny Green is struggling so far, the “Raptors are ready to live or die with their three-point shooting. They are ranked fifth in both three-point shooting percentage (34.5%) and percentage of shots coming from that area (40.6%, meaning over 2 out of every 5 shots is a three-pointer). Toronto is also on pace to break the Warriors record for 306 threes made in the 2016 postseason.”
Many pundits say “Defense Wins Championships” – if this is the case, ever since Marc Gasol joined the club, the Raptors have started playing bruising, grit-and-grind defense similar to the Memphis Grizzlies of a few years ago. In the playoffs, the Raptors have a 102.4 defensive rating (ranked #2 only behind Milwaukee Bucks who they just beat), while the Warriors have a 110.2 defensive rating (ranked #9). More importantly, the Raptors have held their opponents to under 100 points in 10 of their 12 playoff wins. Raptors have held their opponents to 4.4 fewer points per 100 possessions in the playoffs.
Kawhi Leonard – No Fear
Kawhi Leonard has been here before, Kawhi is emotionless, calm under pressure, and will lead his team by example. The Raptors were trailing in Games 5 and 6 by double digits in the Eastern Conference Final vs Bucks, but Kawhi’s calm demeanor and attitude restored confidence in the team. Raptors were able to prevail victorious in these games because of Kawhi’s attitude and their playoff experience – Danny Green (118 career playoff games), Kyle Lowry (80) and Marc Gasol (77) – which were key contributors on the offensive and defensive end.
Kawhi have dominated the Warriors in the past when playing for the San Antonio Spurs, and even recently this season putting up 37 points in a 131-128 (OT) victory on Nov 29, 2018.
Highly Effective Starting Lineup
FiveThirtyEight states: “The Lowry-Green-Leonard-Siakam-Gasol lineup played only 161 regular-season minutes, although it was highly effective when it did play, outscoring opponents by 12.2 points per 100 possessions. That group has now played 314 minutes together in the playoffs, and — somewhat remarkably given that the Raptors have been playing extremely tough competition in the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers — it’s still outscoring opponents by 12.1 points per 100 possessions.”
Solid Bench Scoring
Raptors’ bench of Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell provide consistent scoring, which is absolutely necessary against a potent Warriors’ offensive juggernaut. The Warriors 2nd unit might struggle in this series.
Home Court Advantage
Raptors are 8-2 at the Scotiabank Arena in the playoffs, and have outscored opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions. Raptors have won five straight at home, and will carry their momentum at home for Game 1. If necessary, Raptors will play Game 7 at home.
NBA Finals Prediction
This will be a close, competitive series. I might give Warriors a 54 % / 46% edge in this series, but my gut says Raptors will find a way to upset them. The Toronto Raptors claw their way to victory, and home court is just enough of an edge to make a difference in this series… Raptors win in 7 games.
Based on the current odds, I see a ton of “value” on betting the Toronto Raptors, since I think the Raptors will win this series at least 46% of the time.
- Toronto Raptors +2.5 games (-250). To win 3 units.
- Toronto Raptors to win series +245. Risk 3 units.
- Over 5.5 games (-165). To win 1 unit.
- NBA Finals MVP:
- Kawhi Leonard +275. Risk 1 unit.
- Kyle Lowry +5000. Risk 0.25 unit.
- Game 1 recommendation: Toronto Raptors -1 (-110)
If you want FREE NBA tips and bets throughout the NBA Finals, please follow me on Twitter.