The NBA Playoffs are winding down as we head into round 3 and the start of only one NBA game a day moving forward. Round 2 was one of the best rounds we have ever seen in the “non-competitive” NBA, so we can only hope that round 3 lives up to the same excitement.
The Portland Trail Blazers knocked off the Denver Nuggets in Denver in Game 7 to vault them into the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors. The Warriors are missing two of their starters, neither of which are locked into playing this series or even this season, but they are still -540 in this series. This puts me in an awkward spot as a bettor because that line is really short and it’s tough to pull the trigger at -540 on anything, but I would probably do it here if it was the only option.
Let’s start with this; I think that we will see both Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins on the floor for Game 1 of the NBA Finals. I am not so confident that we will see them on the floor in this series, but I do think that at least one of them will be able to get back if they are struggling in the series. The Warriors are probably thinking they win the series 4-1, rest Cousins and Durant, and await the Bucks or the Raptors with a fully healthy team. I also think that is probably the most likely outcome.
I will likely attack this series price if the Blazers can take one of the first two games at Oracle. If they can’t, I’ll move on with my Warriors Finals bet and have zero regrets about not losing that -540 bet I could’ve made. I would consider particular series prices, but I don’t see one that stands out as of now.
Warriors +450 to sweep would be my favorite one if I had to choose because I think that the lack of defense on the side of Portland will be a major issue. Kanter will not be able to defend Steph, and this will cause Portland to eventually alter the starting lineup, probably along with Rodney Hood for more scoring. If I knew that the Blazers would start every game like this, I would expect them to win a game or two. If not, the Blazers could get run over.
Tight Series In East
The Milwaukee Bucks have steamrolled their way to the Eastern Conference Finals, while the Raptors are coming off of an incredibly close series with the 76ers. I think that the rest is beneficial, but I do think that the Bucks really haven’t dealt with a ton of close playoff series as a team, which could play into the Raptors’ hands. The Bucks are listed as -270, with the Raptors at +235 to win the series.
This series is really interesting because I don’t know how a few things will work out. Will Milwaukee stay big and keep Giannis on Kawhi and Mirotic on Siakam or go back to Brogdon or another guard? I think they will want to go smaller because they would prefer Giannis on Siakam and Middleton on Kawhi over the other option laid out above. How much do Marc Gasol and Brook Lopez play? Gasol saw a lot of time vs. Embiid, but both he and Lopez are not integral parts of the offense and could be run off the court with Giannis playing the 5.
This then creates issues for the Raptors at the rim with Giannis driving to the basket. I think there are a ton of moving parts. The Raptors and Kawhi weren’t great against Milwaukee in the regular season. How much of that is Giannis and Middleton’s length and how much will Kawhi be able to overcome if he needs to? Will we see more Eric Bledsoe than we have seen in the postseason? I expect a series of back and forth matchup problems and strategies for each team. I think that the Bucks have more answers than the Raptors, but I prefer the Raptors at the price.
If you want to bet on the Finals, I would bet on the Warriors right now, and I would wait on anyone else. I currently want nothing to do with either Milwaukee or Portland. Toronto is about +800, which is something that I could get talked into. Listen, I think this line goes up when the Warriors smack the Blazers. I also think this line goes closer toward -200 when we see/hear Boogie and Durant will be back. If they aren’t coming back, so be it, but I think the value is now. With the Bucks and Raptors, I would just wait until we get that news and bet accordingly. I think their numbers go up significantly with that news.