NBA-Play offs 2019-Finals-Game 6 preview

NBA Finals – Game 6 
Toronto at Golden State (-2.5/211.5), ABC, 9:07 p.m. ET
May 30 – Raptors (-2) 118 vs. Warriors 109 (Over 212.5)
June 2 – Warriors (+2) 109 at Raptors 104 (Under 213.5)
June 5 – Raptors (+3) 123 at Warriors 109 (Over 210.5)
June 7 – Raptors (+5) 105 at Warriors 92 (Under 215)
June 10 – Warriors (-1) 106 at Raptors 105 (Under 217)

The Warriors are favored to become the fourth team in NBA history to force a Game 7 in the NBA Finals after digging themselves a 3-1 deficit.

They would be the first team to do so immediately after losing a two-time Finals MVP to an injury, but writing them off as a result of Kevin Durant’s absence wouldn’t be wise. Although he clearly gave them a boost in the 12 minutes of action he saw before rupturing h is Achilles tendon, this Golden State group persevered following his demise and has won plenty of games without him helping to make life easier for anyone else.

Golden State is 6-3 in this postseason without its star, so even though being a plus-6 with him out on the floor on Monday ended up contributing to its eventual 106-105 win, prevailing without Durant is by no means impossible. The “Strength in Numbers” banner that has hung out in front of Oakland’s Oracle Arena for the past few seasons will greet fans for the final time with a potential Game 7 scheduled to be played in Toronto on Sunday night and the team set to move to neighboring San Francisco in the fall. That theme will have to prevail for both the Warriors and their fans as they look to avoid closing out the building with a loss.

Golden State has gone just 6-4 at home this postseason, amassing a point differential of just 1.8. That’s even more disappointing when you consider the Dubs were 39-6 in Oakland over their past four playoff runs entering this one, which included winning 19 of 20 over the past two seasons. This was supposed to be the most special given that it’s the end of an era, but the Clippers set the tone in defeating them twice in the first round. Considering the Bay Area is a little more divided than usual these days with the fancy Chase Center across the bay set to replace Oracle, there has been some finger-pointing that the team’s historically loud fan base has been priced out and replaced by a contingent that has had the audacity to leave early in both double-digit losses in this series.

If the crowd doesn’t help the Warriors get off to a strong start tonight, it would be a massive blow to their chances. That’s no narrative. Down 3-2 and on the heels of an emotionally-draining upset after watching Durant exit with a catastrophic injury, Steve Kerr’s team needs a boost to ensure they can put together four quarters to hold off the formidable Raptors. It’s why Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson have gone out of their way to mention how loud and uncomfortable they expect the building to be and why Kevin Durant has mentioned what he expects to see from the fan base in Instagram posts directly after his awful injury and Tuesday’s successful surgery.

Despite coming in as a substantial underdog, Toronto has proven to be the better, deeper and most importantly, healthier team in these Finals. The Raptors squandered a six-point lead with 3:05 left as the Warriors closed on a 9-2 run, holding on when Draymond Green got a piece of Kyle Lowry’s game-winning attempt from the left corner after a double-team forced Kawhi Leonard to pass the ball off. Although Golden State led for the bulk of Game 5, it looked to be out of answers until its one final push and has now picked up its two victories on the strength of a pair of well-timed surges. It scored the first 18 points after halftime in Game 2 to erase a deficit and even the series and is looking for a more complete effort in order to avoid dropping all three of its home games in these Finals. The Raptors won Game 3 and 4 in Oakland by a combined margin of 27 points and won the regular-season meeting on Dec. 12 by 20 (113-93).

The spread here opened with the Warriors laying 3.5 and briefly got up to four points before coming down to three across most shops on Tuesday morning and dipping to its current position of 2.5 points on game day morning. At this point, you should have already gotten in the Raptors if you believe the better team will close the deal tonight. If you expect to see a Game 7 as Golden State defiantly defends its home court one last time, backing the money line may be the play to avoid laying a possession since it appears headed down below -140 after opening at -170.

By all means, Toronto is in a great spot to win its first NBA championship and are -360 at Westgate, -310 at Caesars and -290 at the William Hill if you wanted to back a series price wager that they’ll win either tonight or at home on Father’s Day to clinch a title. The Warriors would yield a return of +255 (Caesars) to +285 (Westgate) if you believe their short-handed roster can pull off an unlikely comeback.

There’s no question that Golden State can still manage to threepeat, although doing it without the forward who was supposed to be in the mix this deep into the series is going to make it all the more challenging. The good news for those who stand to lose their investment on Warriors’ futures is that they’ve yet to put together a complete game in the series. The Dubs still have the ability to put together their best performance to turn back the Raptors and are always capable of stealing any game by outperforming an opponent from beyond the arc. They were bullied in Game 5, especially following Durant’s departure, yet persevered by shooting 20-for-42 on 3-pointers. They made 12 more than the Raptors, the second-largest difference in made 3’s in Finals history.

Stephen Curry has averaged 32.2 in the series and has averaged over 10 points per game more (34.4 to 24.1) as the offensive focal point when Durant has been absent from the lineup. Although he sat out Game 3 with a hamstring injury, Thompson is averaging 26.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the last three contests and can come up with another big game since he’s always a threat when he’s expected to be more aggressive. Few are more effective when they find a rhythm.

Draymond Green has nearly averaged a triple-double but still has the ability to take his production up a few notches since he’s been sloppy with turnovers. Rallying to win this series will hinge on Green avoiding foul trouble in this contest and producing at an extremely high level. He’s played at least 40 minutes in every game and can’t afford to be whistled for a technical foul or he’ll miss Game 7 due to an accumulation of seven throughout this postseason. Green has averaged just under 13 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.6 assists in the series and hasn’t really played well, so he’ll need to outperform that production tonight.

Kevn Looney, who leads the Warriors in field goal percentage (70.9) and offensive rebounds (39) this postseason, exited Game 5 due to discomfort as he attempts to play through a collarbone injury but will likely suit up despite being listed as questionable, giving Kerr a valuable and versatile defender who brings energy and creates second chances. DeMarcus Cousins has been terrible at Oracle Arena in the series, but that may be a result of having just one day of rest between the games. He’s battling back from an injury and has been an x-factor when effective, helping Golden State survive Durant’s injury with 15 points off the bench after initially being benched and out of the rotation.

Andre Iguodala looks like he’s running on fumes, having played far too many minutes this postseason. Following a regular season in which he played 30 or more minutes just seven times, Iguodala has done so 10 times over the last 14 games he’s played since April 28. Considering Durant’s absence and the lack of production Shaun Livingston and Alfonzo McKinnie have brought to the table, don’t expect to see Iguodala’s minutes cut with the season on the line. An additional day of rest should serve him well too.

Kawhi Leonard, averaging 29.8 points, 10.6 rebounds and 4.4 assists through the first five games of these Finals, is a heavy favorite to win MVP and should get the award if the Raptors close it out tonight or prevail at home on Sunday. Curry would seem like the way to go if you want to get some value on a Golden State player, but Thompson and Green still have a shot at the hardware if they serve as driving forces in Games 6 and 7. The Warriors will need all of their remaining players to be at their best to help turn around this series, so getting home to try and gel could be the ideal fix to maintain their momentum as they seek to become the second team ever to win a series after falling behind 3-1, having played victim against the Cavs in 2016 thanks in part to Green missing Game 6 due to an accumulation of technical fouls.

After winning back-to-back championships with Durant leading the way after squandering a 3-1 lead to Cleveland, the Warriors are ironically back in the position of having to win without him, looking to become the second team ever to overcome a seemingly insurmountable Finals deficit.

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