NBA Finals Betting Preview – A Case For the Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors should be brimming with confidence right now. Any team would be, when they have come from two games down to upset a #1 seed. After getting batted around by Milwaukee, the Raptors roared back to win four straight. And in the process, they have shown what kind of mettle they have.

Now they will try to dethrone the two-time world champs in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors have advanced to this point while being below full strength. And that will once again be the case for them in Game 1. It all begins on Thursday at 9:05 PM ET at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.

So how did the Raptors come back like that? It has to be attributed to a number of things. And those are some of the things that make them a formidable presence for this challenge. They were, for one, resilient. They took the body blows from the Bucks in the first two games. In Game 1 they folded in the latter stages. And Game 2 was no contest. They were written off. But when they started to rebound and respond, they gradually took the mental edge away from Milwaukee. And as we know, if you’re going to face the Warriors, you have to be strong mentally.

In the NBA Finals odds as they are posted at BetAnySports, Toronto is the Game 2 favorite:

Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors Game 2 Odds:

Team SP/RL TOTAL ML
Warriors +2 (-110) 215 (-110)  +112
Raptors -2 (-110) 215 (-110) -132
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Warriors vs. the Odds

Those odds are inclusive of reduced juice. And what it means is that you can avoid laying the usual -110 on hoops action. We should also mention that reduced juice also governs the series price, in which the Warriors are -265 favorites, with Toronto at +245.

Golden State is the series favorite despite the fact that the Raptors have the home court advantage. That’s something some folks may not be aware of. And that is an edge, obviously, that Nick Nurse’s team brings into this series. This team is no slouch, having earned it with 58 wins. And being at home is something that has helped Marc Gasol. The former Defensive Player of the Year has shot 63.4% in games in Toronto.

No one should underestimate what the Raptors can do on the defensive end of the floor. In the last couple of games against Milwaukee, they were so tight that the Bucks couldn’t even move the ball around the half-court without a lot of trouble. Their Defensive Rating is second-best in the playoffs. And they can do an extremely good job in limiting the effect of a transition game. They stopped Milwaukee cold in that regard in the process of winning those last four games. And NBA bettors know that the Warriors are going to try to turn up the tempo, as they average the shortest possession time of any playoff team.

Raptors vs. the Odds

At the other end, the Toronto offense is an interesting phenomenon. They have demonstrated that when the situation warrants it, they can run, as 18.1% of possessions have been in transition. But they have been deliberate as well, with a little more than one-fifth of their attempts coming in the last six seconds of the shot clock.

Another important factor is that they are not going to necessarily get beaten at the free throw line against Golden State. They are right there with about the same percentage from the charity stripe, as both squads are just below 82% in the playoffs.

This is largely an eight-man rotation, and the three bench players really had their moments against Milwaukee. Of course, Serge Ibaka is a very strong guy to bring off the pines in place of Marc Gasol. Norman Powell had a +27 plus-minus rating in the Eastern Conference finals. And Fred VanVleet turned out to be a real game-changer, with seven triples in Game 6 and a +39 in the series. This is a big potential edge over Golden State, which is not the deepest team in the world.

Key Players to Watch

Kevin Durant may not play in either of the first two games. DeMarcus Cousins will be available on a limited basis, if at all. Toronto will have arguably the best all-around player on the floor; maybe the best in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard is renowned for his defense, as a perennial member of the NBA All-Defensive team and former Defensive Player of the Year.

But he is dominating offensively as well. No player has scored more points than he has in the playoffs. No one has made more free throws. And we can guarantee you that no one has come with more clutch plays. He can not only shoot from long-range, but he is also very effective in mid-range, which a lot of teams don’t defend all that well. Leonard has shot 51% from mid-range in the playoffs.

Because he is a stopper, he can throw a monkey-wrench into whatever Golden State likes to do most on offense. And he’s got a winning combo with Kyle Lowry. With those two on the floor, Toronto has outscored opponents by 148 points.

NBA Finals MVP award

Leonard is priced at +225 to win the NBA Finals MVP award (Steph Curry is -170). And he might provide a lot of value at that price.

But the Raptors have to win the series first. Losing players won’t get it.

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