All NBA playoff games tell stories. The pregame betting action tells a tale of its own. Yet in the sport of basketball, there are always a few journalists who are way too obsessed with the big picture to notice the here and now.
Kevin Durant attempted to play in Game 5, lighting-up the Toronto Raptors with swished bombs and accurate passes until a ghastly Achilles injury threatened to derail not just Golden State’s comeback effort in the NBA Finals, but the next year of his career.
Somehow, someway, the Warriors managed to win 106-105 despite trailing late in the 4th quarter. (A big-time blunder by Toronto coach Nick Nurse may have helped a ton.) Yet for a lot of the NBA media, the KD injury was the bigger of the 2 stories.
One writer even suggests that Durant’s long road to rehab might actually help the Golden State Warriors by making it more likely that the club can negotiate a contract extension for KD while other teams get cold feet due to the possible 12+ month delay in his on-court arrival.
I’ve never been a GM (even in Little League) but my every instinct is to declare that POV to be total nonsense. It doesn’t help the Warriors, Durant, or the NBA for the great athlete to be out of commission for up to a year. Golden State had a healthy, productive asset named Kevin Durant, and now the franchise has a long-term injury to a superstar on its hands.
The only actual saving grace will be if Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the remaining healthy cagers can prevail 3 times in a row and defend the league title.
Not-so-Golden State of Vegas Handicapping
Meanwhile, something strange has been happening to the odds.
You would think that Durant’s injury and the prevalent hobbled status of Boogie Cousins would be overshadowed by the Warriors’ newfound hope that a Game 6 at Oracle Arena on Thursday night will provide another victory and momentum headed into a decisive rubber match.
But just as we’ve observed in Stanley Cup Finals betting in 2019, the club with more top players missing out on crucial games (in the Blues’ case due to suspensions as well as injuries) has remained a popular choice with gamblers.
Not that the Raptors aren’t seeing their share of action for Game 6. In fact, the real weirdness was to see Las Vegas open Thursday markets for the Warriors with the defending champs favored at closer to 1-to-2 than (Even) odds.
Action on a wayward Golden State (-3.5) point spread and an initial (-167) host moneyline has driven those numbers to (-2.5) and (-140) respectively.
KD’s fateful – and regretfully-cheered – stumble in Game 5 may not present the Golden State front office with as much opportunity as some pundits think. But if Toronto is taking too many bets (finally!) due to the Durant injury, that’s an opportunity for bettors to clean-up on the Warriors ATS or in live-betting markets on Game 6.
I’m not convinced that Toronto will lose 3 in a row and blow a chance at an upset NBA crown. But I do think Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors will find a much tougher row to hoe in Oakland than in their successful trip to California last week.
How Not to Nurse a Late Lead
Coach Nurse is secretly glad that the controversy over some Raptors fans cheering when Durant went down is distracting reporters from asking endless questions about his ill-chosen and costly time-out with about 3 minutes left in Game 5.
Toronto carried a 3-1 series lead into the contest on Monday night. Leonard would post a double-double as Nurse’s squad engineered a late rally, and the Warriors appeared dethroned as the 4th quarter clock ticked away.
Then the skipper called time-out following a blaze of offense that appeared to leave the Warriors high and dry at the 3:05 mark. The coach’s reasoning was that the NBA removes extra time-outs from a team’s arsenal following the 3:00 mark, so there was value in taking the T/O while it was available to the club.
But a recharged Golden State came out of the huddle like a house afire, retaking the lead and holding-on grimly in a 106-105 win that allowed a dynasty to survive just 3 more days.
Or maybe, it was a turning point that could set up a comeback NBA Finals triumph for the aristocrats.
Expect an Early Surge From Toronto
Nurse’s strategy when the series began had to have involved taking advantage of Golden State while Boogie Cousins and Kevin Durant were missing.
At least half of the duo is back in action. Cousins isn’t 100% – he played 20 minutes and scored 14 points on Monday night – but we can expect the big man to contribute again in the Finals.
The Raptors, however, have found that a high-tempo game and crashing the boards is a good idea for the entire series, not just when Oakland superstars are missing.
Toronto wore down its storied opponent at Oracle Arena on Friday night, forcing Steve Kerr to play Andrew Bogut in the paint for long stretches lest the defending champs lose the rebounding battle. Meanwhile, Leonard scored 36 points while power forward Serge Ibaka shone as a 2nd banana.
But the Warriors were cold from the field at key moments in Game 3 and Game 4, and it was obvious that Kerr had tweaked the club’s outside-to-inside game on Monday night. Open 3-point looks were common for Curry and other sharpshooters in the 1st half, and the points that Golden State put in the bank in the 1st and 2nd quarters helped to dampen the blow when Toronto went wild.
With the champs looking better in the passing game, appearing more comfortable shooting – and hitting – from outside, and able to call on Cousins and Bogut on the inside, I’m liking the Warriors’ chances of forcing a final showdown. But it won’t come easy.
Find the Best Betting Markets on Game 6
With a (+/- 2.5) point spread, there’s little room to line-forecast a tight win by either club and come away with anything but a lucky outcome (for better or worse) ATS.
It’s the alternate lines – and eventually the live-betting odds – that interest me in Game 6.
Look for a combination bet on Toronto to lead after the 1st half and Golden State to win in 48 minutes.
Also, consider waiting for the Warriors’ live-betting odds to lengthen as the Raptors put on another rally in the 1st or 2nd quarter…and then in-play on the hosts and settle down to watch the inevitable comeback in front of a fiery crowd.
Curry and the Golden State offense will be like a time-bomb that we know is going to explode at some point during the game. Toronto might out-play the home team for 2 or 3 full quarters and still lose in the 4th frame.
Will that outcome result in a soul-searching Raptor team giving 110% in an all-time great Game 7 against the never-say-die Warriors? Maybe.
But right now, what I’m most confident of is that Game 7 will take place in Toronto on Sunday night.
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.