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Warriors NBA Championship Underdogs for First Time Since May 2016

Ryan Murphy

by Ryan Murphy in NBA Basketball

Updated Mar 26, 2020 · 10:39 AM PDT

Steph Curry dribbling
Can Steph Curry and the Warriors get back on track? Photo by Keith Allison (Wikimedia Commons).
  • The Toronto Raptors are favored to win the 2019 NBA Finals after taking a 2-1 series lead
  • The Raptors can move one step closer to claiming their first championship on Friday night when Game 4 tips off in Oakland
  • The Golden State Warriors have not been NBA Championship underdogs since May 2016

Golden State has officially lost its sheen of invincibility. Down 2-1 in the NBA Finals, the Warriors now find themselves in the unfamiliar role of underdogs in the latest NBA Championship odds.

The last time oddsmakers didn’t expect Golden State to win the title was way back on May 25, 2016, when the Warriors found themselves in a 3-1 hole against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors went on to win the next three games before falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a hard-fought seven game series.

2019 NBA Championship Odds

Team 2019 NBA Championship Odds
Toronto Raptors -120
Golden State Warriors -100

Odds taken 06/07/19.

Warriors Were NBA Favorites for 1,100 Days

Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how long Golden State’s reign has been. The last time the Warriors were championship underdogs Captain America: Civil War was no. 1 at the box office, Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” was at the top of the Billboard charts, and no one outside of a few AAU coaches had even heard of Zion Williamson, who at the time was still a high school sophomore.

The last time the Warriors were championship underdogs Zion Williamson was still a high school sophomore.

A whole lot has changed  in the NBA since May 2016. Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Dirk Nowitzki all retired, Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Luka Doncic entered the league, and superstars like LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George switched teams. The league itself also underwent a dramatic shift that resulted in fewer field goal attempts and more three-point heaves than at any other point in NBA history.

Those are seismic changes, but throughout it all oddsmakers never lost faith in the Warriors’ ability to hang championship banners from their rafters.

Warriors Came Close to Being Eliminated in 2018 Western Conference Finals

Although the Warriors were steady favorites until very recently, they weren’t always odds-on favorites. Golden State’s championship odds were as high as +120 on April 12, 2018 after the team lost three of its final four regular season games and entered the playoffs as the second seed in the West.

The Warriors made short work of the Spurs and Pelicans in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but were nearly eliminated by the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. Despite trailing the series 3-2, Golden State’s championship odds never got worse than -160 thanks in part to an an ill-time hamstring injury to Houston point guard Chris Paul.

The Warriors entered the 2018 NBA Finals against the Cavaliers with -990 odds, and saw their odds improve to -2800 after taking a commanding 2-0 series lead.

Latest Odds Are Justified

As strange as it may be to see the Warriors as underdogs, their latest odds are justified. Toronto has outscored Golden State by 18 points over their first three games and has come out on top in 10 of the 12 quarters played. In fact, were it not for the Warriors’ 18-0 run in the third quarter of Game 2 the Raptors would be in position to sweep the series tonight.

The Raptors were especially dominant in Game 3, limiting the Warriors to 39.6% shooting from the field and 33.3% shooting from beyond the arc. Toronto’s mastery also extended to the paint, where they outscored Golden State 38-36, and swatted 10 of the Warriors’ shots.

Warriors in Danger Without Durant

Oddsmakers appeared willing to give Golden State the benefit of the doubt until late yesterday when Kevin Durant was officially ruled out of Game 4. The 10-time All-Star and two-time Finals MVP has been on the shelf since May 8 after straining his right calf against the Rockets. His availability remains in doubt after he was held out of practice yesterday after being deemed unfit to participate by the team’s training staff.

Durant was leading all players in postseason scoring prior to his injury, and is the kind of generational superstar who can transform a series on both ends of the court. The Warriors had a shot with KD on the floor, but they might be headed home early with him in the locker room.

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