The NBA Finals are slated to start Thursday night between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. Golden State has to travel to Toronto for the first two games of the series, which I think makes betting the overall series total more interesting, along with the injury news.
Not A Typical Home Team
In most series, the better and favored team is at home for the first two games, making them much more about trying to steal a game and less about must-wins and storylines. If the No. 5 seed goes to the No. 4 seed and gets blown out in the first game and loses a close one in Game 2, all we hear about is how “the series doesn’t start until a road team wins a game.”
This is not at all the case in this series, as the Warriors are -300 to win the series and will be looking to start the series off with a road win. The initial line of Game 1 is the set between even and Raptors -1, which is always important to look at when trying to bet futures. You want to look at the path and determine how you think the series will go and see if there could be a time to get a better number or a way to maximize your take.
For example, if you think that this series goes deep or that the Raptors can pull off two straight home games, but you think that the Warriors will win the series eventually if they get healthier, I would not bet the series right now. Paying -300 for a six- or seven-game series probably isn’t the best idea, especially when two of the final two games in the series are in Toronto.
One of the biggest questions to me is how much will this line change if we see a Raptors win on Thursday night. It is just a home win in a playoff series in a game in which the Raptors are slight favorites. The line, however, indicates that the Raptors are pretty big underdogs in the series. I assume that this is due to one of two things. The eventual trust in the Warriors to win later in the series or the assumption that Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins will be back later in the series, likely drastically changing the pricing on individual games.
I think the latter is the most likely reason for the line, which is something that I really struggle with. As a bettor, your biggest goal should always be to take advantage of the best value and situations that you think are being misvalued. The issue I have with this price is that I think there are some aspects that I think are being overstated and others that I think are being underrepresented.
When it comes to the injuries, I am much higher on DeMarcus Cousins’ return than the public. Cousins was not fantastic when playing with the Warriors before his injury, but that was almost completely with Kevin Durant. The lack of Durant for some period of time will allow Cousins to be more involved in the game plan.
The other issue for Cousins is that he is not able to play up-tempo as well and then defend at a high level, which goes hand-in-hand. The Raptors are a perfect team for Boogie to be effective against because they want to slow down the pace, and they don’t require a lot of switches on the defensive end. The Warriors’ defense is so good because of their switchability, which Cousins lacks for the most part.
The good news is that the Raptors have struggled to exploit worse defenders than Cousins in the playoffs already, which gives me reason to believe that Cousins’ poor defense will not stand out significantly in the series.
I am skeptical that KD plays a game in this series, but I do think that would change if the Warriors are in an elimination situation. Durant would be able to simply take the load off of Steph and Klay by getting the matchup with Kawhi. I like watching the Warriors more without Durant because of the increased movement and better basketball, but this matchup would be one that KD helps with a lot due to his ability to garner the focus of an elite defender.
When To Bet
Overall, I expect that the series price will move a lot and sooner than we see in most series because the line pretty much expects Golden State to win one of these two games. I think that Golden State is the better team and can really dominate here, but I don’t love the price. As someone backing the Warriors here, I will likely bet on them to win in both Games 1 and 2 and then reassess a futures bet after those two games are over, and the line has changed.
If you want the Raptors, I would bet on them now. The longer the series goes, the better chance they have to see Cousins and Durant. Also, if you think that they are winning the series, they probably need to win both of the home games to start, which would really decrease the +250 odds on a series win if you were to wait.