Until the Raptors won Game 5 in Milwaukee, I assumed the Bucks would host the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
But Toronto seized the momentum and ran off four in a row in the Eastern Conference Finals, including two close ones at the end. For the first time in NBA history, a franchise located outside of the United States will appear in the NBA Finals.
Both the Warriors and Raptors have been favored by up to a point throughout the week and, currently, Toronto is the narrow favorite at the majority of books that don’t have this one as a pick; the total is about 214.
With the exception of last season’s Cavaliers, which lost three games by double-digits and another by eight in a sweep, the Raptors are the biggest underdogs the Warriors have faced in their five consecutive trips to the NBA Finals. Golden State is up over -300, while the Raptors are fetching somewhere in the neighborhood of +230-240.
Such is the case because of how good the Warriors have been on the road this season (33–16 all season, including 6–2 in the playoffs). They will have to win at least one in Toronto and more than one if they don’t hold serve at home, which makes for a smaller margin of error.
That’s why I would only recommend a small play on Toronto, if you really want to bet the series price. Perhaps things stay competitive and Toronto manages to win one in Golden State. Then the Warriors could be in some trouble. And just getting to a Game 7 in Toronto would offer a generous hedge opportunity.
But I’m definitely taking this series one game at a time. Game 1 feels fairly evenly split, in terms of importance. If the Raptors don’t win, most people are going to call it a series then and there. If the Warriors lose, it would be the first time they lose a Game 1 in any of these consecutive finals and perhaps throw them off their footing. Golden State certainly has the better chance of recovering from a loss on Thursday night, however.
I don’t particularly love any angle in Game 1 but I tend to believe that the Raptors will come out just a little bit harder, being at home and the sizable underdogs; they just don’t have another alternative. Golden State often starts slowly (though Toronto didn’t start fast at all against Milwaukee) so I’m thinking the Raptors go into halftime with a lead and since we’re 5–1 in the playoffs let’s not hold anything back now.
Play: Toronto 1H (PK)