NBA Finals Game 5 Picks for Monday’s Warriors-Raptors Showdown
Photo credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kevin Durant
- Warriors to win the third quarter? Kevin Durant to win NBA Finals MVP? Raptors in 6?
- Our NBA staff gives their favorite bets for Warriors-Raptors Game 5 and beyond with Kevin Durant expected to play on Monday.
As if this NBA Finals series needed any more drama with the two-time defending champs down 3-1 on the road for Game 5, it was announced Monday afternoon that Kevin Durant — winner of two straight Finals MVP awards — will make his return to the court.
Our staff breaks down KD’s impact to Game 5 and the series at large by giving their favorite bets for tonight and beyond.
NBA FINALS GAME 5 EXPERT PICKS
Wob: Warriors -7.5 in Game 5 (+253)
For me, it’s not a matter of if Kevin Durant is 100% or not. Only one person knows how heathy he is, and that’s him. Let’s say for hypothetical sake that he’s 75%. Whatever. I don’t care if he’s wearing pajamas and hobbling around on crutches; his mere presence on the court demands a defender’s respect.
We have just watched the Raptors treat Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko like Sidney Deane did to Billy Hoyle in the first 15 minutes of “White Men Can’t Jump.” For an entire series.
That is now gone, and the immediate repercussions are going to be what the Warriors so desperately need against a Harrasic Park defense that feels like it has eight guys on the court at all times with fishing nets for arms and hands: Space. With Durant on the floor, the Raptors can’t cheat — Steph can run around without the entire country of Canada inside his shirt like he’s been doing for years. That facet alone is why KD is so important.
Furthermore, Durant returning means DeMarcus Cousins gets bumped out of either the main rotation and/or starting five. Any variation of less Boogie is a positive for the Warriors, as he is borderline unplayable right now; when he’s been on the court with Durant this series, the team’s Net Rating is negative double digits.
And then there’s the angle there is no statistics for, just physical evidence: The weight of the entire continent is on the Raptors’ shoulders to close this out before it gets back to Oracle. Playing at home in this situation almost adds more pressure than on the road.
I don’t have any experience playing in the NBA to prove this hypothesis — it’s just an opinion after speaking with so many plugged-in people who DO have it. I can’t help but remember what happened in Oklahoma City in 2016. Game 6, down 3-2, facing a double-digit deficit late, the Warriors harvested the souls of the entire city and audience rooting against them.
They have been in this foxhole before, and if anyone knows the secret of using nervous energy against their opponents, it’s these basketball zombies.
Expect to witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battlestation.
Matt LaMarca: Kevin Durant to win Finals MVP (+1400)
This series is so hard to handicap, I’m rolling the dice on a longshot.
The Warriors are listed at +370 to win the series, which feels thin, but it’s easy to envision a scenario in which they get this to seven games. If they can win Game 5, Game 6 is back in Oracle for the final game in franchise history. Oracle might not be as intimidating as it was in the past, but I think they can dial it up one last time. If they can force a Game 7 in Toronto, all bets are off.
That said, the only way that this series makes it that far is if Durant returns and plays like he has in the past. We’ve seen the Warriors without him this series, and the results have not been impressive. Curry has struggled, Cousins has been a shell of his former self, and Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala have both been limited by injuries.
If the Warriors do pull off the comeback, how can you give the MVP to anyone but Durant? He’ll be viewed as the guy who took this franchise from the brink of elimination to their fourth title in five years.
Yes, he will have played only three games in that situation, but who cares if his team ultimately wins? Three wins in three games with him would speak volumes given what we’ve seen from his teammates through the first four games.
Again, this isn’t a very likely scenario, but I think Durant’s MVP odds should be much closer to the Warriors’ series odds at the moment.
Evan Abrams: Raptors win in 6 games (+575)
Welcome back, Kevin Durant!
The stress of closing out a series at home is not nothing. Especially for a franchise and city that hasn’t celebrated a major-four title since the Blue Jays in the early 90s. Kawhi Leonard is on another planet right now, which leads me to my pick before the series (Raptors +1.5 games and Raptors in 6) and the play now.
I think Golden State plays up tonight, beats the Raptors on the road and then everyone jumps on the Warriors, assuming Games 6 and 7 are just a forgone conclusion. I think we get the Kawhi/Danny Green playoff experience game where Toronto steals it on the road to win the title at Oracle.
Kawhi is a machine; we all know this. Losing at home in Game 5 will take the air out of the entire city, the masses will jump ship and it will feel like the Warriors are about to be crowned champions minutes before Game 6 at Oracle … but I think Toronto has it in them to shock the world.
Matt Moore: Passing on Game 5
I thought for sure KD was playing Game 3 after being a “longshot” for Game 2. He didn’t play in Games 3 or 4. I thought for sure the Warriors would come up big even without Thompson in Game 3. Then I thought for sure they’d win at least one in Oracle.
Nope and nope. Then I didn’t think he’d play at all given how the workouts in the Bay and the early reports yesterday seemed. So I am once again left to shrug. I’m passing on the whole lot.
I can’t overstate how resigned the Warriors seemed after Game 4. But Durant fundamentally shifts their confidence level. He opens things up for Curry and Thompson. He makes life harder on Kawhi Leonard.
Durant could have a game in which he looks like a shell of himself, an absolute wreck. He could come out and have a dominant story-for-the-ages performance.
Everything is on the table in this game, and so I think everything has to be off for me.
Bryan Mears: Warriors (pick) in 3rd quarter
There are a ton of uncertainties still about this game and how Durant will look and fit in immediately. We genuinely have no clue whether he’s 100% (probably not), 75% or even 25%.
The current spread of Warriors -1 seems to assume he’s not whole, but it does assume he’ll be impactful. And I think he will be, just for what his return does for his rotation.
The bench has just been so bad. In the Finals, Shaun Livingston has a -22.0 Net Rating. Quinn Cook is at -18.4. Bell is at -10.2. Cousins has been getting relentlessly attacked on defense. Alfonzo McKinnie has a true-shooting percentage of 39.8%. It’s ugly.
And regardless of whether KD goes for 40 — his points prop is 23.5, so probably not — him being on the floor is almost certainly better than those other players.
The Warriors will likely start the Hamptons 5, and I want to get exposure to that lineup within the betting market. I don’t know how much Durant will play altogether, which is why it’s risky to bet the full-game spread, but I know he’ll play with the starters and help them.
That gives us a couple shots, notably the first and third quarters. I’d rather take a shot on the third, as Durant hasn’t played in a month. It might take a couple minutes for the Warriors to play cohesively again, and those minutes might be enough for the Raps to get out to a lead. But in the third, they’ll have a half under their belt, and I think the Warriors’ Third Quarter of Death could make another appearance after getting dominated in Game 4.
Bryan Mears: DeMarcus Cousins Props Unders
DeMarcus Cousins could see a big hit in his playing time with Durant back. We currently have the unders on his points, assists and rebounds as a Bet Quality of 10/10 in our Player Props tool.
We’re currently projecting him for just under eight minutes in tonight’s affair. It makes sense: He’s been largely bad this series outside of Game 2, and the reason head coach Steve Kerr was playing him — any semblance of offense — is less important now with Durant back. Further, Boogie has been relentlessly attacked on the defensive end, which makes him a liability on both ends of the floor.
Expect more of the Hamptons 5 lineup — it was already confirmed Durant would start tonight — especially in a must-win game.