2019 NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Preview: How Much Will Nerves Matter in Warriors-Raptors?

2019 NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Preview: How Much Will Nerves Matter in Warriors-Raptors? article feature image

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7).

2019 NBA Finals Game 1 Betting Odds: Warriors at Raptors

  • Spread: Raptors -1
  • Over/Under: 213
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • TV Channel: ABC
  • Series Score: 0-0

>> All odds as of Wednesday evening. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.

For the first time in NBA Finals history, Game 1 will be outside the United States with the Toronto Raptors hosting the reigning champion Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors opened as the Game 1 favorites, but quickly became underdogs on the stage they have become so familiar with over the past five years. Can Toronto live up to its own hype and take the first game of the Finals at home? Our NBA analysts discuss.

Betting Trends to Know for NBA Finals

There is lopsided action on the Warriors in Game 1 as more than 70% of bettors are taking Golden State +1. Since 2005, teams receiving 50% or more of bets in the NBA Finals have gone 34-48-1 (42%) against the spread while squads getting 60% or more of bets have gone 5-12 (29%) ATS. — John Ewing

A majority of spread tickets are on the Warriors, but the line has moved from Raptors +1 to -1. When the line moves in the opposite direction of the betting percentages this is called reverse line movement and is an indication of sharp action. Since 2005, when a team receives 40% or less of bets but the line moves in their direction, like with the Raptors, they have gone 69-53-3 (57%) ATS in the playoffs. — Ewing

The Warriors are 18-1 straight up and 11-8 against the spread in Game 1s of a playoff series under Steve Kerr. Their only playoff loss came against the Thunder in 2016. If the Warriors close as underdogs in Game 1, it will be just the second time in 19 Game 1s happening last in the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Rockets, a 119-106 Warriors road win. — Evan Abrams

No Kevin Durant? No problem. The Warriors are 34-4 straight up and 24-13-1 against the spread with Stephen Curry in the lineup, but without KD since 2016, winning 31 of their last 32 games overall. — Abrams

The Raptors are currently 1-point home favorites around the market against the Warriors in Game 1 of the Finals. Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, no team has been listed as a home underdog in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The closest calls came back in 1982 and 1985, when the Sixers and Celtics were 1-point home favorites against Pat Riley and the Lakers. — Abrams

Did You Know? The Warriors play Games 1 and 2 of the Finals on the road for the first time in their five-year playoff run. In their 19 total playoff series under Steve Kerr, the Warriors have won and covered at least one game both straight up and against the spread on the road in the playoffs. — Abrams

Moore: Pay Attention to Game 1 Nerves

Did you know that the Warriors were down to the Cavs after the first quarter and first half of Game 1 in 2015? The Warriors admitted afterwards to being awestruck at the moment.

It’s really difficult to not have jitters. The Raptors have veterans, but when they drop the lights, and the Finals logo flashes, and they do the ABC/ESPN promo where they show all the legends who came before, you realize you’re now a part of history. It’s a big moment.

And then the butts tighten.

The Raptors are going to likely shoot tight in that first quarter; for the Warriors, this is no big deal. The defense will likely be there, but I can get Golden State -105 in the first quarter and +105 first half.

The Raptors may be able to make more adjustments with Durant out, but this is a big moment, and that’s before we factor that Kawhi Leonard is still battling that leg injury that’s giving him issues.

I’m on the Warriors for the game (-2, I got in way too soon), but I like the first half moneyline bet way better with where the lines have shifted. This moment is way too big for me to trust the Raptors beyond Leonard and Danny Green. — Matt Moore

Locky: How I’m Betting Game 1

There seems to be a school of thought that this is already a must win for Toronto. They have home court. The Warriors have had a lot of time off and may be rusty. The Warriors still do not have Durant. To borrow from “A Few Good Men,” these are the facts of the case, and they are undisputed.

However I’d say everything we know about both teams points in the opposite direction. Golden State has been in this round for what feels like the entire decade and seems much more likely to be prepared for the small differences and increased pressure of the Finals.

They also have a solidified rotation without Durant that has excelled recently. If anything, disrupting that later would make me question their likelihood of success later in the series.

Credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) celebrates with forward Draymond Green (23).

Lastly, what we’ve seen from Toronto in all three rounds of the playoffs is a similar personality. They don’t play well early in their series. They lost Game 1 to Orlando. They lost Games 2 and 3 to Philly and trailed 2-1. They lost the first two games to Milwaukee and were declared dead by basically everyone.

In each case their defense got much better in every game as the series went on and they could make adjustments. Suddenly Orlando couldn’t score at all. Suddenly Philadelphia couldn’t make shots. Suddenly Giannis Antetokounmpo could be contained. Toronto has been excellent later in these series.

Considering the make-up of each team and the extent to which this current Golden State group is motivated and playing well without Durant, I think they take Game 1 and I like them at the current number. We will see a better version of Toronto as the series goes on, but by then it may be too late. — Ken Barkley

Mears: Value on the Under?

There’s some sharp money on the under, as it’s getting just 42% of the bets but 71% of the money. As a result, it’s moved down from 215 at open to 213.5 as of Wednesday evening.

That’s a pretty low number, but I think it’s warranted, and I think the best value can be found on the first-half total. Overall, NBA Finals first-half unders have gone 43-33-4 since 2004, and they’ve gone 9-5 specifically in Game 1s. That meshes with how I think this overall series will go.

The Raptors are probably the best defensive team the Warriors have faced in their dynasty-like run. They have multiple defenders to throw at Curry, including Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Green and even Leonard if needed. VanVleet was actually the best on him in the regular season, holding him to just four total points on 39 total possessions. He’s great at fighting through screens, which is crucial when defending Curry.

Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Toronto Raptors guard Norman Powell (24) and guard Fred VanVleet (23).

Green and Leonard are as good as defenders as you could want on Klay Thompson, and all of these guys are excellent help defenders — as are Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol, who will round out the starting five. The Warriors are favorites for a reason, but they’ll really have to earn it in this series on the offensive end.

On the Raptors’ side, I think there’s something to the Game 1 jitters narrative, especially in the first half. Kawhi and Green have experience and may be fine, but the rest of the players are new to this experience, and they’ll carry the weight of the franchise’s first ever NBA Finals game — and it’s in Toronto. I think the Raptors are rightfully at a pick’em or favored, but I think the offense could struggle to start off quickly in the first half.

Given all of those factors, I think the first-half under is my favorite bet of the game, although I would note that these lines are very solid. This is a heavily-bet game for obvious reasons, so grinding out a long-term profit on these efficient lines is going to be tough. It might be wiser to look toward the prop market for bigger edges; use our Props tool to find those. Bryan Mears

Editor’s note: The opinions on this game are from the individual writers and are based on their research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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