By Eli Hershkovich
After 2,460 regular season games and 77 playoff contests, we’ve reached the pinnacle of the NBA season. The Golden State Warriors are set for their fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. The Toronto Raptors have reached this stage for the first time in the franchise’s 24-year history.
Let’s break down the different ways to bet on the NBA Finals, along with a wager that delivers the best value.
Game 1: at Toronto, Thursday, May 30 (9 p.m. EST)
Game 2: at Toronto, Sunday, June 2, 8 p.m. EST)
Game 3: at Golden State: Wednesday, June 5 (9 p.m. EST)
Game 4: at Golden State: Friday, June 7 (9 p.m. EST)
Game 5*: at Toronto, Monday, June 10 (9 p.m. EST)
Game 6*: at Golden State, Thursday, June 13 (9 p.m. EST)
Game 7*: at Toronto, Sunday, June 16 (8 p.m. EST)
* if necessary
Injury updates: Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced Kevin Durant (strained right calf) will be out for Game 1. DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quadriceps muscle) is listed as questionable. Durant, who averaged 34.2 points per game in the playoffs before suffering his injury against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, hasn’t been cleared to begin on-court activities. The two could suit up at some point in the series, but their respective return dates remain unclear.
Exact series odds
Warriors in four games: +500
Warriors in five games: +350
Warriors in six games: +275
Warriors in seven games: +500
Raptors in four games: +2500
Raptors in five games: +1000
Raptors in six games: +1200
Raptors in seven games: +600
Warriors -1.5 games: -167
Raptors +1.5 games: +130
Steph Curry: -140
Kawhi Leonard: +250
Draymond Green: +1000
Klay Thompson: +1400
Kevin Durant: +2000
Pascal Siakam: +4000
Kyle Lowry: +4000
Marc Gasol: +10000
Andre Iguodala: +20000
Serge Ibaka +30000
Fred VanVleet: +30000
Game 1 odds
Raptors -1 (O/U 214.5)
money line: Raptors -114, Warriors -102
Game 1 player props
Steph Curry: O/U 32.5 points, O/U 5.5 rebounds, O/U 5.5 assists
Klay Thompson: O/U 22.5 points, O/U 4 rebounds, O/U 2.5 assists
Draymond Green: O/U 13.5 points, O/U 10 rebounds, O/U 7.5 assists
Kawhi Leonard: O/U 30.5 points, O/U 8.5 rebounds, O/U 3.5 assists
Pascal Siakam: O/U 17.5 points, O/U 7 rebounds, O/U 2 assists
Kyle Lowry: O/U 15.5 points, O/U 5.5 rebounds O/U 6.5 assists
Value bet: Klay Thompson to win MVP (14-1)
There’s no value in the Warriors’ series odds, and using the money-line rollover strategy on a game-by-game basis won’t be as profitable as using it on a typical underdog — given Golden State will be a heavier favorite once it returns home.
I’m shifting my attention to Finals MVP, and Durant’s likely absence for a chunk of the series puts Thompson in a prime position to excel.
The 29-year-old two-guard has generated 19.1 points per game (39.3 percent 3-point clip) during the 2019 playoffs, and he’s amassed the Warriors’ second-most points per contest (22.6) during Durant’s five-game absence. Plus, Thompson has notched the third-highest defensive rating (111.1) among players with at least 24 minutes per game in the postseason. With the Raptors’ vaunted defense expected to launch plenty of ball pressure at Curry, look for Thompson -- a soon-to-be free agent -- to max out his worth.