What the Warriors-Raptors Game 1 Spread Means For Toronto’s NBA Title Hopes

What the Warriors-Raptors Game 1 Spread Means For Toronto’s NBA Title Hopes article feature image
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Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

  • The Toronto Raptors are 1-point home favorites against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals (9PM ET on ABC).
  • Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, a home team has never closed as an underdog in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Since the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, there have been 42 different NBA Finals series, from the Seattle Super Sonics against the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977 to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.

In that span, there has never been a home underdog in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Only twice since the merger has a home team in Game 1 of the NBA Finals closed with a point spread of just a single point:

  • 1982 Philadelphia 76ers (-1) at home vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers stole Game 1 on the road in Philadelphia, 124-117 with Magic Johnson nearly posting a triple-double with 10 points, 9 rebounds and 14 assists. The Lakers ended up winning the Finals in six games against the Sixers and Julius Erving.

  • 1985 Boston Celtics (-1) at home vs. Los Angeles Lakers

The Celtics won Game 1 at home 148-114, the sixth largest margin of victory in Finals history. Boston went on to lose the series in six games.

Importance of Home-Court in a Series

Since the merger, teams to host Game 1 of the NBA Finals are 29-13 (69%) in terms of winning the title simply based on having home-court advantage.

When home teams are favored by fewer than six points in Game 1, though, that series win percentage drops drastically. Those teams only have a 38.9% (7-11) series win percentage, with 12 of the 18 series going at least six games.

When home teams are favored by six points or more in Game 1, they have won 22-of-24 NBA Finals series. The only two losses? The 2004 Los Angeles Lakers against the Pistons and the 2016 Warriors against the Cavaliers.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) after Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.

Home teams in Game 1 of the NBA Finals have been on average a 6.1-point favorite since the merger, with only three teams closing as double-digit favorites in a Game 1.

The highest spread came in last year’s NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers, where Golden State was a 13-point favorite and won by 10 points at home and the Lakers were double-digit favorites twice — once in 2001 vs. the Sixers as a 12-point favorite and in 1987 against the Celtics as a 10.5-point favorite.

All three teams ended up winning the title.

Home Cooking Advantage in Game 1

How much of an advantage is it playing at home for Game 1 of the NBA Finals? Since the merger, home teams are 32-10 straight up and 26-15-1 against the spread in Game 1, winning by 7.7 points per game.

Since the Chicago Bulls and Seattle Super Sonics played their NBA Finals series back in 1995-96 season, home teams are an astounding 20-3 straight up and 16-7 against the spread in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

The last team to win Game 1 of the NBA Finals on the road? Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs in the 2013 Finals against LeBron James and the Miami Heat. The Spurs won Game 1, but ended up losing the series in seven games.