The 2019 NBA Finals begins on Thursday May 30 from Scotiabank Arena as Toronto and Golden State will square off for the championship. The Warriors have won three of the last four titles and the oddsmakers have installed them as series favorites over the Raptors despite not having homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven battle.
Toronto finished the regular season at 58-24 and was the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference while Golden State earned the top spot in the Western Conference with a 57-25 mark.
The best-of-seven series will be played in a 2-2-1-1-1 format with a possible Game 7 taking place on Sunday June 16 from Canada.
In this year’s regular season, Toronto and Golden State played each other within a two-week span in late November and early December. The Raptors earned a 131-128 victory at home on Nov. 29 and completed the sweep with a 113-93 win at Oracle Arena on Dec. 12. In the wild shootout from Canada, Warriors All-Star Stephen Curry sat out due to a groin injury. He was available in the second encounter and the Raptors still earned the win and they did so without their best player Kawhi Leonard, who was nursing a hip injury.
Throughout the 2019 playoffs our trio of NBA experts listed below have offered up their fearless predictions on every series and their records are listed below (Exact Games).
In a strange twist, the Raptors go from not owning home-court advantage in the Eastern Conference Finals to now possessing it in the NBA Finals against the Warriors. Golden State is in familiar territory by making its fifth consecutive NBA Finals, but two things are different this time around. The Warriors don’t have to worry about containing LeBron James and Golden State will be on the road for the first two games and a potential Game 7.
Two games into the Eastern Conference Finals, it looked like Milwaukee would be heading to the NBA Finals, but four straight victories by Toronto has the Raptors vying for their first ever championship. No LeBron this time around, but Kawhi Leonard has put together a fantastic postseason by averaging 31.2 ppg, which is nearly five points higher than his regular season average.
Kevin Durant’s status is up in the air for Golden State after missing the Western Conference Finals with a calf injury. The big question heading into this series for the Warriors (besides the availability of KD) is if all those holes Portland dug for Golden State to climb out of was a sign to things to come or just poor starts for the Warriors.
Toronto swept the season series, including a blowout win at Oracle Arena without Leonard. Stephen Curry didn’t suit up in an overtime loss at Toronto, as Durant lit up the Raptors for 51 points. If Durant doesn’t play and the Warriors owned home-court advantage, then Golden State should be alright. But with Durant out to start the series and the Warriors have to travel early, that could spell problems for the champs.
In the 2008 NBA Finals, the L.A. Lakers (-180) met the Celtics (+160) in the finals without homecourt advantage and that was the last time we saw a club with the venue disadvantage listed as favorites in the series. Boston won the matchup in six games and while the extra home matches played a factor in that series, it’s not always the telling factor. Since that best-of-seven battle, we’ve seen three teams in the Mavericks (2011), Heat (2012) and Cavaliers (2016) win the finals without homecourt advantage.
While I believe Toronto will be much more competitive than last year’s LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, I can’t see the Raptors sustaining their defense against this well-tuned Warriors squad. Holding the Bucks to 102, 99 and 94 points in the last three games of the East Finals was very impressive but Milwaukee helped that cause by only hitting 31 percent from 3-point land in the series. Outside of the Game 4 win at home, every contest was tight and they’re now facing a group that is better than anybody in finishing games.
The Raptors have a slight edge in the frontcourt due to the uncertain status of Golden State forward Kevin Durant. If he was healthy, the Warriors would likely be -500 favorites knowing how much success he’s had against Toronto. He averaged 40.5 points per game in the two losses to the Raptors this season and his career numbers (27.7 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 4.2 APG) versus the Canadian club are off the charts as well. Without KD, the Warriors are 5-0 in the postseason and his absence has helped give minutes and confidence to Steve Kerr’s reserves. If Durant returns and possibly DeMarcus Cousins too, the added talent should only create more issues for the Raptors.
I expect Toronto to win at least one, possibly two games at home in this series and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a blowout as well since we’ve seen this Golden State team get run plenty of times this season. However, the Warriors have been very solid off losses and their playoff record at home is ridiculous. Golden State in six games (9/4) is the top choice for Exact Game Odds and that’s my lean in the finals.