- Sportsbooks have updated odds for the NBA’s most likely 2019 Finals matchups
- Is this the year LeBron James has to watch the NBA Finals from home?
- Can the Raptors edge out the Celtics and Bucks to make their first Finals appearance in franchise history?
Forget everything you’ve heard lately about the Warriors looking vulnerable. The two-time defending champs are heavily favored to reach the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year in 2019, and feature prominently in four of the top five possible Finals matchups at online sportsbooks.
The odds of a Raptors-Warriors Finals are set at +260, but that also leaves the door open for a best-of-seven showdown this June between Golden State and Boston (+350), Golden State and Milwaukee (+420), or Golden State and Philadelphia (+750).
Those numbers represent a stark departure from NBA preseason odds when a potential Celtics-Warriors series topped the charts at +120.
NBA Finals Matchup Odds
|Raptors vs Warriors||+260|
|Celtics vs Warriors||+350|
|Bucks vs Warriors||+420|
|76ers vs Warriors||+750|
|Raptors vs Rockets||+1700|
Will the Warriors Reach the NBA Finals Again?
We’ll be the first to admit that the Warriors have looked more mortal in 2018-19 than at any other point in the last five years. Steph Curry has been in and out of the lineup, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green have been feuding, and Klay Thompson is posting the worst three-point percentage of his eight-year career.
And yet, despite all of their foibles and setbacks, Golden State still has the second best record in the Western Conference and ranks in the top-five league wide in offensive rating, points per game, field-goal percentage, three-point percentage, assist percentage, and blocks. Any other team would kill to be having the kind of roller coaster campaign that Steve Kerr’s squad is presently enduring.
DeMarcus Cousins reportedly plans to make his Warriors’ debut on January 18th vs. the Clippers.
(Via Yahoo Sports) pic.twitter.com/XdolMnmtZF
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 9, 2019
The Warriors are clearly fatigued from their many deep postseason runs, but they should get a welcome pick-me-up soon with the season debut of DeMarcus Cousins, who is scheduled to take the court on January 18th against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Boogie is easily the most talented big man the Warriors have had during the Steph Curry era, and his ability to attract double teams in the post should lead to ridiculously wide-open looks for the team’s many gunners. Expect huge win margins in February and March as the Warriors waltz their way to another Finals appearance.
Will the Raptors Finally Win the East?
The Raptors have won the Atlantic Division in four of the last five seasons, but have only reached the Eastern Conference Finals once, losing to Cleveland in 2016.
So, what makes this year different? For starters, Toronto’s chief nemesis is now cashing his cheques in Los Angeles. LeBron James bounced the Raptors from the playoffs in each of the last three years, personally overseeing a pair of soul-crushing sweeps in 2017 and 2018. The four-time MVP clearly wormed his way into the Raptors’ collective psyche, and his absence presents the team with one less obstacle on the way to their first Finals appearance in franchise history.
This game-saving play from the Raptors was brilliant. Kawhi Leonard picks Bembry’s pocket, every Raptor player touches the ball, and Ibaka gets the WIDE open dunk. Just brilliant. pic.twitter.com/LWweZRdLug
— Lior (@Lior_Kz) January 9, 2019
Another key difference is the addition of Kawhi Leonard, who is leading the Drakes in minutes, points, rebounds, and steals. The former NBA Finals MVP is a proven postseason performer who has won a title and appeared in a pair of Western Conference Finals. Toronto will be able to lean on his championship pedigree – as well as his exceptional skill set – as it tries to break new ground.
Is a Raptors-Warriors Finals Inevitable?
The wheels will fall off the Warriors’ bus eventually, but it won’t be on the road to the 2019 NBA Finals. Golden State has too much talent, experience, and professionalism to let interpersonal blow ups or the potential distraction of impeding free agency interfere with their date with destiny.
The wheels will fall off the Warriors’ bus eventually, but it won’t be on the road to the 2019 NBA Finals.
The Raptors, meanwhile, are not nearly as sure a bet. They’ll need a healthy postseason from Leonard and Kyle Lowry, and a number of lucky breaks to edge past the Celtics, Sixers, and Bucks. Even the Pacers, who have won 14 of their last 17 games, are poised to end a contending team’s season early.
? @PatBoylanPacers takes you through the Best of December for the Blue & Gold.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) January 3, 2019
The East’s top four teams are far better than they were a season ago, and postseason glory could hinge on injuries and which teams get hot at the right time.
For now, the Raptors still make the most sense, but don’t be surprised if they’re tested early and often once the 2019 NBA Playoffs begin.
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