Moore: Even the Warriors Thought Their NBA Finals Series Odds Were Too High

Moore: Even the Warriors Thought Their NBA Finals Series Odds Were Too High article feature image
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Photo credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Steph Curry and Fred VanVleet

  • The Warriors opened at -275 to win the NBA Finals and were as high as -310 before Game 1.
  • According to Anthony Slater of the Athletic, a member of the Warriors organization was surprised by those odds.

The Warriors opened as heavy series favorites for the 2019 NBA Finals and no one batted an eye. The Warriors were -275 at open at Westgate (and got to -310 before Game 1), with the Raptors +225. It made sense, really. The Raptors got past the Bucks due to Fred VanVleet and needed a four-bouncer vs. the Sixers to advance. The Warriors have won three of the past four titles.

Clearly, the books had to expect a big percentage of bets to come in on Golden State.

But apparently, the Warriors didn’t agree with the books’ or the public’s assessment. From Anthony Slater at the Athletic:

Four days before the Raptors popped them by nine in the Finals opener, a prominent member of the Warriors posed a question: “Why the fuck are we such big favorites?”

Vegas had opened with a series line that confused him. You’d have to bet $275 on the Warriors to win $100.

“Did they watch the Blazers series?” he asked.

The Raptors, of course, went on to win Game 1 in borderline-dominant fashion, holding Golden State at bay from the second quarter on. As such, the series price moved dramatically and is now Warriors -150, Raptors +130, which feels much more in line with reality.

The more you spent time studying up on this series, the more it became apparent that the Raptors have the capacity to extend it. They’re long and athletic, with three great defensive bigs in Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka, who are able to challenge at the rim. They’re smart defensively with quick, physical guards who can get around screens to contest. They have a singular superstar in Kawhi Leonard who demands constant attention. And now, suddenly, they’re absolutely bombing from 3-point range.

But the unnamed Warrior point is key here. Golden State trailed consistently vs. a Blazers team that was not great and very well could have been at home instead of Denver if Jamal Murray had not shot 4-of-18 in Game 7 and Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard had not had outlier games. The Warriors couldn’t defend the Blazers, who had only two real weapons. It should not be a surprise that they cannot adequately defend a Raptors team with threats everywhere.

The line wasn’t surprising, given that it’s the Warriors and convincing yourself they’re mortal has been a fool’s errand for five years. But now we’re seeing why the Warriors themselves would not have considered themselves such favorites. Still, a good start and this series being more even than first thought doesn’t mean you should count the Warriors out.

They had chances in Game 1, even getting it to 90-87 in the fourth quarter before a 10-1 run from Toronto buried them for good. The numbers are more in line with reality now, and we’ll see if the Warriors can make enough adjustments or if this series really will be determined by whether Kevin Durant plays or not.

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