When the 2019 NBA Finals tip off on Thursday night, the Golden State Warriors will be making their fifth straight trip to the pinnacle of professional basketball. However, is it worth taking a NBA bet at the sportsbooks on the Dubs achieving the three-peat and taking a third consecutive NBA titles?
For the first time during the team’s historic run, Steph Curry and Co. won’t be taking on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. With LeBron taking his talents to Los Angeles – and missing out on the playoffs altogether for the first time since 2005 – it’ll be up to Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors to slay the NBA’s latest dynastic dragon.
Toronto finally played its way through to the first NBA Finals in franchise history. But as a reward for ending that 24-year drought, the Raptors must contend with a Warriors team that can become unstoppable on command.
To wit, after losing superstar sniper Kevin Durant to a calf injury in Game 5 of the second round, the Warriors responded by brushing aside the Houston Rockets with alarming ease. Golden State then dismissed the Portland Trail Blazers in a devastatingly effective four-game sweep, storming back from double-digit third-quarter deficits to finish off the last three wins.
The sweep put head coach Steve Kerr in familiar territory, as he looks to lead the Warriors to the first Finals “three-peat” since the Lakers (2000, 2001, 2002). Before that, Kerr’s long-range shooting helped Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls clinch their second three-peat (1996, 1997, 1998).
Kerr knows better than anybody that winning three consecutive Finals is a defining feature of the game’s greatest dynasties. So he’ll no doubt have the Golden State core of Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green ready to roll entering Game 1.
They’ll need to be ready too, as the Warriors must hit the road for their first Finals without home-court advantage. Golden State topped the Western Conference with a 57-25 record, but Toronto’s 58-24 mark means Game 1 will take place in front of a frenzied Canadian crowd at Scotiabank Arena.
Basketball fans in “The North” have been waiting to watch their Raptors compete for a title since the team’s inception in 1995. With home-court advantage on their side – and Durant officially listed as out for Game 1 – online sportsbook Bovada has the Raptors as slim even money underdogs, while the Warriors enjoy the narrowest of edges at (-120).
As for the point spread, bookmakers expect Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals to go down to the wire with the Warriors installed as (-1) road favorites. And given Leonard’s ability to clamp down defensively on scoring stars – as he did in shutting down Giannis Antetokounmpo to spark Toronto’s 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals – the Over / Under is set relatively low at 215 points.
Golden State should be able to survive Durant’s absence. As they have in compiling a pretty 31-1 record over their last 32 games with Curry on the floor and K.D. in street clothes.
Even so, when Game 1 begins the Warriors will have had 10 days off, giving the Raptors a perfect opportunity to “steal” a win as the home dog.
Last July, when the Warriors added All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins to what was already the ultimate super-team, the futures betting board listed Golden State at gambling odds-on (-175) favorites to win it all for the fourth time in five seasons.
The next closest competitor in that regard was the Boston Celtics at (+600), while the Raptors fell to the front of the middle-of-the-road contenders at (+4500).
And although Toronto’s stellar regular season helped close that gap to (+750) by February’s trade deadline – second only to the defending champs at (-230) – they were still a far cry from Golden State’s consensus favorite status.
Not much has changed as the Finals approach, with Bovada listing Golden State as heavy (-280) favorites over Toronto (+230) to finish the race to four wins. Team leader Kyle Lowry and Leonard were underdogs against the Bucks though too, and after losing the first two to start that series, Toronto didn’t drop another game.
This edition of the Raptors also swept the Warriors in regular season play – winning an overtime shootout at home before notching a 20-point win in Oakland. So at the very least they won’t be starstruck when the champs arrive at the 2019 NBA Finals.