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GSW to win in 6: +275
Here is a partial list of prominent NBA people that have picked the Warriors to win in 6:
Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon, Stephen A. Smith, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenny Smith, Ernie Johnson, Tim MacMahon, Jackie MacMullan, Kevin Pelton, Jorge Sedano & Howard Beck.
None of these people said Warriors in 7. None said Warriors in 5. Feels like everyone has the Dubs in 6. Vegas odds makers agree that Golden State in 6 is by far the most likely scenario.
The feeling is the series will go something like this: The Warriors earn a split in Toronto. Come back to hold home court advantage in Oakland. Fail to grab the championship on their return trip to Canada, but hold off the plucky underdogs in a decisive game 6, the last contest ever to be held in Oracle Arena.
I think GSW in 6 at +275 is great value.
If I knew for a fact that the Warriors were slightly better than the Raptors, I would take the Warriors in 6. Toronto presents such a substantial home country advantage that it’s hard for me to imagine any team taking 2 out of the first 3 games in Toronto unless they were significantly better.
If I knew for a fact that the Warriors were exactly as good or slightly worse than the Raptors, I would still take the Warriors in 6. The institutional knowledge replete within the organization would break any tie. We saw in Game 7 against the 76ers the way each Non-Kawhi Raptor shied from the moment when everything was on the line. The Finals would magnify that anxiety 10-fold. Any close game late in the series, the Warriors will feel at home while the Raptors will feel lost at sea.
Take this past Super Bowl as an example. The betting marketplace values experience heavily.
With under 10 minutes to go in regulation, the Rams had a 1st down at about midfield with the game tied 3-3. At that moment on Live Wagering, the Patriots were still -150 favorites to win the game. Despite not having the ball or the lead late into the game, the Patriots were even bigger favorites then when the game started.
The reason? Nobody had faith the Rams were going to be able to break out of their malaise and score. Whatever affliction had caused one of the great offenses in NFL history to slow to a halt in the year’s biggest game – it felt real and like it wasn’t going away.
On the other end, it felt like the Patriots were going to score the next time they got the ball (which they did). Having been there and done it is invaluable. Tom Brady has lived through 9 Super Bowl halftime shows. He knows what that half hour feels like in the locker room. More importantly, he has shown he can make a key throw late in the biggest game of the year. Belichick has shown ice in his veins, staring into Pete Carroll’s soul with seconds to go until he made the blunder of a lifetime.
The lights of the finals games of the season are like no other. When the whole world is watching. The Warriors know what its like to trail in the Finals. They know what it feels like with the game tied late and their legacies on the line. Win or lose, the moment will not overtake them.
GSW to win in 5: +350
Imagine the streamers and confetti coming down on a forlorn Aubrey Drake Graham when the Raptors only manage one win in their NBA Finals debut. Sounds like good TV to me, even if it represents a regrettably short series and early start to the summer.
For the Warriors to win in 5, the most likely scenario is that GSW holds home court and wins 2 of the first 3 games in Toronto. This is plausible, given the Warriors are 6-2 when playing on the road in this year’s playoffs and 19-7 since Kevin Durant joined the team.
Dating back before the Kerr era, the Dubs have stolen at least one road game in their last 22 playoff series. The Splash Brothers have never not won on the road in any series in their playoff careers.
Surprisingly not having home court advantage has not been crucial lately in the NBA Finals. Teams with home court are only 9-6 over the last 15 Finals dating back to the Detroit Pistons shocking the LA Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals.
If the Raptors lose Game 1 tonight, they will suddenly be in jeopardy of a short series. The cavalry is coming. If Durant comes back in Game 2 or Game 3, he will have every motivation to finish the deal in style. If the Warriors win a game by 10 without him, he’ll want to win by 20 once he gets out there. He might be the freshest player in the series at that point.
GSW to win in 4: +500
The Zaza Sweep is the only way I could see the Warriors winning every game. Spurs fans will tell you – if Kawhi Leonard goes down with an injury, the series is over and worse we may never see Kawhi in a Raptors uniform again.
In the 2017 Western Conference Finals, the Spurs were +21 in 24 minutes that Kawhi was on the floor. In the other 168 minutes of the series, the team was -85.
A1 Sauce always had the slogan “Yeah, it’s that important.” Well. Yes, Kawhi is that important. But losing Kawhi would not be like the Raptors devouring an unflavorful steak. It would be more like a meteor abruptly obliterating their existence.
Without Kawhi this Raptors team did have an excellent 17-5 record this season, even trouncing the Warriors by 20 in Oakland. Don’t be fooled by this data. Not all games are moments are created equal. The Raptors do not have the offensive fire power to keep it close under the brightest lights without their start shooting guard.
GSW to win in 7: +500
The neutral fan has to hope for a double elimination game here.
The Warriors are 2-2 in Game 7’s in the Steph Curry era. What a difference a 2-3 or 3-2 Game 7 record would make for the Dubs place in the pantheon of great teams in the history of North American sports.
Are they simply an unfair amalgamation of talent? Or are they timeless legends?
TOR to win in 7: +600
When the Warriors lost to the Clippers in the 2013 playoffs, the rumors were swirling about Marc Jackson’s’ job status. Jackson took solace in the fact that his team competed their hearts out and took “two of the greatest players in the world” to seven games.
Looking back 5 years later, that excuse rings incredibly hollow. The second or third best player on Jackson’s team that year, Klay Thompson, may be a better all-time player than either Blake Griffin or Chris Paul. Jackson had three of the greatest player in the world on his team and didn’t even notice. Instead he thought – well, we did pretty good considering our competition.
The Raptors must not take solace in the greatness of their opponent. These moments are too rare. And – ask Mark Jackson – you may never have another, better opportunity. The 2012 Thunder had three great players all under 23 and lost a tough series to an all-time Miami Heat team. That organization may never reach a Final for another 30 years. Injuries happen. Players ask out. Organizations move on and fade away. Whether not Kawhi stays, the Raptors must take full advantage of the opportunity they have now.
The home team is 14-4 all time in Game 7’s in the NBA Finals, including 6-1 since the NBA/ABA merger.
Interestingly, the road team is 6-0 ATS and 3-3 SU in the last six Game 7’s in any round of the NBA Playoffs.
TOR to win in 5: +1000
The Raptors are the only team to sweep GSW this season. Since the All-Star break they have the best 3-PT shooting % in the league (41.5).
If the Dubs fail to win in Toronto, the Oakland crowd will be nervous, and the team will be unsettled. Kevin Durant returning may hurt the team’s chemistry and cohesiveness at that point. If he attempts to play hero, it might not take away from Draymond Green’s assertiveness. If the Splash Brothers start out this series cold, adding a 20-shots per game player will not help them get their rhythm back. Especially if KD is hobbled and laboring, the Raptors will smell blood if they win the first couple games of the series
TOR to win in 6: +1200
Toronto winning in 6 would mean that the last game ever at Oracle Arena would end in heartbreak for the Bay Area faithful. If Kawhi maintains his unbelievable scoring efficiency and the Raptors stymie the Curry/Draymond pick & roll to a significant degree, the Raptors have a chance to steal a game on the road.
The Raptors have 6 players that have either been on the All-NBA Defensive team or deserved to be: Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol are all elite defenders for their position. This group has held their opponent under their team total in 14 out of their 18 playoff games. If you only looked at the Bucks half-court offense in the Eastern Conference Finals, they would look like the worst offense in basketball.
The Warriors have a much more developed half court offense than the Bucks did. But when you rely on a heavy dose of three points shots, any team can go cold.
If the Raptors hold serve in Toronto, they can take solace in the fact that the Warriors have been one of the worst teams at home – relative to expectations – all season.
Golden State went 19-29-1 ATS at home this season, including 3-5 ATS during the post-season. The Warriors were just as bad ATS at home last season. Whether it be the higher ticket cost removing the sincere fans, or just a spoiled fan base, Oracle is simply not the daunting venue that it used to be.
TOR to win in 4: +2500
Steph Curry turns his ankle badly in Game 1 and Kevin Durant is unable to play at all. Those things happen and a Raptors sweep is likely.
Since Steve Kerr arrived 2014 the Warriors have won 81.5% of the games Curry plays and only 54.6% when Curry does not. The team has gotten more reliant on Curry as they have become more top heavy. He is the glue that gets guys like Draymond Green going. The last time they trotted out their full line-up minus Curry, the Dubs lost by 35 at home to the lottery-bound, Dallas Mavericks.