The 2019 NBA Finals are here, and the Golden State Warriors are going for their third straight championship (4 in the last 5 years), but they’ll have to go through a tough, gritty Toronto Raptors squad to do so.
The Raptors are led by Kawhi Leonard, who has been playing like an MVP, and an elite defense that has been suffocating opponents. Can they keep the Warriors stars contained and spring an upset or will the Warriors be sitting on the throne at the end of the NBA Finals?
How They Got Here
The Golden State Warriors were expected to be here, so this is no surprise. What is surprising is the fact that they lost DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant midway through the playoffs and still thrived.
The Warriors struggled a little bit with the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, eventually ousting them in six games. Then they surprised the Houston Rockets in six games in Round 2, smoking them in the final two contests after they lost Durant.
In the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors swept the Portland Trail Blazers with ease.
As for the Toronto Raptors, they’re here because an offseason trade has paid dividends. The team traded long-time star DeMar DeRozan for Kawhi Leonard, hoping that the latter would elevate the franchise to new heights.
He’s done exactly that, leading the Raptors to their first-ever 2019 NBA Finals appearance.
Toronto has relied on stellar defense to get here, ousting the Orlando Magic in five games in the opening round, then stymying the Philadelphia 76ers four-headed monster in Round 2 and then putting the clamps on league MVP-to-be Giannis Antetokounmpo and the league-best Milwaukee Bucks.
2019 NBA FINALS SERIES WINNER:
Warriors (NBA Champions: outright at -290) – The Warriors have looked mighty focused over the last six games. Losing Durant has lit a fire under them. When they’re playing like that, nobody can beat this team – let alone a Raptors squad whose just happy to be here. I’ll bet the Warriors to win this series at -290 at FanDuel Sporstbook.
Toronto Raptors (NBA Champions: with spread at +2.5) – The Raptors defense has been nothing short of incredible in the playoffs. We saw the Clippers give the Warriors problems and the Raptors can too. They have at least four elite defenders who can slow the Warriors stars and two of them – Durant and Cousins – aren’t even there. I don’t expect this to be a quick series, so I’ll take the Raptors at +2.5 games at FanDuel Sporstbook.
2019 NBA FINALS MVP
Steph Curry is -143 at DraftKings and -167 at Fan Duel
Pascal Siakam (63-1) and Kyle Lowry (70-1) at FanDuel
Serge Ibaka (100-1) and DeMarcus Cousins (200-1) at DraftKings
2019 NBA FINALS TOP SCORER
NBA Finals Top Scorer: Steph Curry – Curry has been playing out of his mind since Durant went out. He’s scored at least 33 points in five straight games. The Raptors will do their best to contain him but it’s not as if the other teams weren’t trying. He’ll finish the Finals with the most points, which is why I like him on this prop at FanDuel Sporstbook.
TRIPLE-DOUBLE NBA FINALS PROPS
- Draymond Green – is the favorite listed at FanDuel at +410 and at 3-1 by DraftKings.
- Stephen Curry – is 23-1
- Kyle Lowry is 27-1
- Kawhi Leonard is 34-1
- Pascal Siakam is 100-1 (his next will be his first).
OVER/UNDER: STEPH CURRY 3-POINTERS
The over/under for the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history is 4.5 in Game 1.
How can the Raptors become 2019 NBA Champions?
The Raptors have a number of things going for them.
To start, they have Leonard, who is the best player in the league right now.
- His playoff numbers are incredible as he’s scoring 31.2 points per game while shooting 50.7% from the field.
- He’s also adding 8.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.2 threes, 7.4 free throws and 1.6 steals.
Leonard has also keyed the team’s incredible defense, which is giving up just 99.6 points per game in the playoffs. That’s the second-best mark among all playoff teams as is their 102.4 defensive rating.
We saw the Warriors have trouble with a gritty, defensive team like the Los Angeles Clippers in Round 1. Is there an opening for the Raptors to do the same?
Lastly, don’t forget that the Raptors have home-court advantage. They won the regular season series 2-0, so that’s encouraging, but having that extra game at home will be crucial to their chances.
How can the Warriors become 2019 NBA Champions?
The Warriors definitely have the edge in front-line talent and that has to be the difference. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant made the All-NBA team, and Klay Thompson narrowly missed out. On top of that, Draymond Green has been playing like an MVP-caliber player these last few weeks and DeMarcus Cousins is nearing return. Sometimes the Warriors get complacent – as we saw in the regular season – but the talent has to matter here.
Secondly, which somewhat builds off the first, is defense. The Warriors have been to the Finals in five straight seasons and while they’re known as an offensive juggernaut, what really puts them over the top is their defense.
They’ve been sloppy at times this year but since Durant went out, they’ve woken up at that end of the court. Over the last six games, their Defensive Efficiency Rating is third-best – just one spot back of the Raptors. If they can bring that brand of defense, the Raptors will have a tough time competing in this series.
Lastly, the Warriors have a huge edge in terms of experience. As mentioned, this is their fifth straight Finals and they’ve won the last two championships. They’ve been here before and they’ve seen it all.
That’s a huge edge as this is all new territory for the Raptors.