Raptors, Warriors in NBA Finals battle

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The sharp money rode the Toronto Raptors successfully in Game 1 of the NBA Finals and incorrectly on Sunday night, falling short after an 18-0 run coming out of the break helped the Golden State Warriors take control in a contest they trailed in throughout most of the first half.

Golden State won without star forward Kevin Durant and despite guard Klay Thompson and forward Kevon Looney exiting due to injuries, leaving a hobbled Andre Iguodala and DeMarcus Cousins to make the difference down the stretch.

The squares prevailed. Those that ridiculed public bettors for backing the Warriors on the belief they simply couldn’t go down 2-0 regardless of circumstances wound up paying out of pocket for believing that they would.

There’s no such thing on being on the right side if it loses. The same could be said regarding the Warriors losing a series opener in which Toronto connected on 15-for-23 attempts (65.2 percent) in the final six seconds of the shot clock.

Games are obviously never simple but sometimes bettors end up tipping the cap to Occam’s razor and take the contrarian’s side, believing that the betting public is destined to lose because they so often do. A series pitting a two-time champion against a franchise that has never before sets up beautifully as a David vs. Goliath in which all the money is coming in on the giant. We know who won that one.

The Raptors looked great in taking a 1-0 lead in the Finals as Pascal Siakam shined due to the Warriors loading up to stop Kawhi Leonard, allowing the likely Most Improved Player award winner to score 32 points, missing only three of his 17 shots. For those who spotted value in riding Toronto given Durant’s availability being in doubt, it worked out in your favor.

In a world where virtual unknown Andy Ruiz, Jr. beats undefeated boxer Anthony Joshua into submission and the Blues enter Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final tied against the Bruins despite most hockey experts deeming that series a mismatch, blindly backing underdogs is often good business. The Raptors laying just two points at home against a team still missing Durant seemed like a no-brainer since most of those sillies who flush their money down the toilet on a daily basis were backing the Warriors.

That’s a dangerous way to gamble.

In my eyes, sharp vs. square is also an archaic and overrated way to bet. The Pros vs. Joes nonsense is a pretentious way to second-guess what your eyes are seeing and can be a dangerous avenue to get yourself get lost. Anyone can spot an inflated line if they’re experienced enough. Numbers obviously rule the day in this business but scoreboard is always what wins out.

Golden State dulled out some of those sharps in Toronto, tossing Drake a muzzle while also quieting a raucous Jurassic Park to send the series back to Oakland even at 1-1. It took an immense Iguodala 3-pointer to seal it and a Danny Green miss just before the buzzer to keep the score at 109-104, squeezing under a posted total that closed at 213.5 at most books.

That number did get to 212.5 at some shops and pushed (213) at a few others, which reminds us that you should always look for the best number since that’s one of the few things you can manage to control in sports betting.

Immediately after Sunday’s action ended, oddsmakers established the defending champs as a five-point favorite for Game 3 that the public rather quickly bet up to six. This seems foolish since Thompson’s hamstring strain now has him listed as ‘questionable’ even though his intention is to play. Until we get closer to tip-off and he’s cleared, it’s irresponsible to blindly lay that many points with Golden State considering it may be without two of its four All-Stars.

There’s also a good possibility that Durant will make his return after a seven-game absence in addition to Thompson gutting it out through his injury, but he’s expected to have to practice before getting back into the lineup. Whether coach Steve Kerr divulges that information or stays quiet in order to keep Toronto guessing also remains to be seen, but the Warriors did disclose that Looney, one of their valuable reserve forwards, is out for the series with a non-displaced first costal cartilage fracture, an injury to his right collarbone.

Looney’s absence will put more pressure on Cousins and Andrew Bogut, both of whom were dusted off to play pivotal roles in Game 2. Jordan Bell may also find himself in the rotation. It’s a reminder that the Warriors are indeed vulnerable, so if you didn’t take advantage of the value spot on their series price prior to Sunday’s win (-160 at most books), I would advise you stay away from the series price of -300 (1-to-3) that falls in line with where it started before the series began.

Raptors at Warriors, Game 4 (Friday): With Thompson and Durant likely to participate in Game 4, that’s where my lean for this week lies. Considering that Oakland is in the midst of hosting the final few Warriors’ games before the team relocates to San Francisco, I expect Oracle Arena to be jumping, contributing to a Friday night blowout.

Finals MVP pick Draymond Green is averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds and 9.5 assists through the first two contests, so hopefully you got in at 10-to-1 since he’s the one sure thing in a series filled with variables. Green’s defensive work against Leonard and Siakam in addition to his role facilitating Golden State’s offense has come as no surprise.

The Warriors winning the NBA Finals in six games remains my choice. WARRIORS

Last week: 0-1

Season: 36-31

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About the Author
Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia

Tony Mejia has been a national writer for nearly two decades and has covered NBA and college basketball as a columnist, analyst, handicapper, and bracketologist for CBS Sports, Pro Basketball News, and numerous other sites.

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