Why You Should Be Betting the Raptors to Win the NBA Title
Without LeBron James standing in their way, the Raptors are beginning to look like a team that NBA betting fans should be paying attention to as a potential champion. Though they fell behind the Philadelphia 76ers 2-1 in their best-of-seven series, Toronto responded with a gutty road win in Game 4 and a blowout victory in Game 5 on Tuesday.
In fact, the Raptors’ 125-89 win – a game in which they led by as many as 40 points – was the largest playoff win in franchise history. It puts them one win away from a likely date with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks in the East Finals.
Raptors Match Up Well With Warriors
If we assume the Golden State Warriors come out of the West – and why wouldn’t we? – the Raptors should feel good about it. No team wants to see Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the rest of the dynastic Warriors, but consider that the Raptors swept Golden State this season.
Those wins included a three-point overtime win at home and a 20-point win in Oracle, the latter of which actually came without Kawhi Leonard in the lineup. Plus, both those matchups happened in the first half of the season before the Raptors added Marc Gasol at the trade deadline in February.
Toronto Also Great Value in East
The Milwaukee Bucks are still the favorites to come out of the East. They won 60 games and have dominated in the postseason thus far, posting a league-best 14.0 net rating. They’re 7-1 and could finish off the Boston Celtics in five games despite losing Game 1 at home. They’re -200 to advance to the NBA Finals for a reason.
And yet, the Raptors are building their own momentum on the other side of the East’s bracket. Each game they look like a better bet to win the East at +185, and that number will only decrease as Nick Nurse’s group continues to roll. It’s time to get in on the Raptors.
For what it’s worth, Toronto’s 10.9 net rating is second best in the NBA Playoffs and their defense is the only one below 100, sitting at 98.9. In fact, that mark is currently the lowest the NBA Playoffs have seen since the 2015 Golden State Warriors (98.7), who won the NBA title that year.
If there’s a defense that could potentially slow down Giannis and the Bucks, it’s one led by Leonard. But he hasn’t been alone. Pascal Siakam is averaging 20.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals while Kyle Lowry has only gotten better as the postseason has gone on: he averaged 11.4 points in Round 1 but is up to 13.8 points in Round 2, including a 19-point effort in the Game 5 blowout.
Raptors Ready To Finish Off Sixers
The Sixers and Raptors felt like two evenly matched teams entering the second round of the playoffs. But while one side has seen their best players step up in clutch moments, the other is fading away when it matters most.
The Raptors’ wins in Games 4 and 5 give them commanding -670 odds to advance, while the Sixers have their backs against the wall with +475 odds of winning both Games 6 and 7.
Ben Simmons has been invisible, averaging a meager 9.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Joel Embiid has been dealing with an illness – in addition to a sore knee – that has limited him to 38.3% shooting in the series – he shot 48.4% in the regular season – and 24 combined points in the last two games.
Philadelphia’s inconsistency hurts, but especially when Leonard is playing like an MVP. Through five games this series, Leonard is averaging 34.6 points on 59 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists. Through two rounds he’s averaging 31.2 points on 57.4% shooting.
The only other players to accomplish those numbers in a single postseason are Hakeem Olajuwon, Bernard King and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Leonard is on another level right now and the Sixers have no answer for him.
About the Author
Mark Strotman is a veteran sports journalist who has covered the Chicago Bulls and the NBA for NBC Sports Chicago since 2012. His work has also appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, The Chicago Tribune, Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports. He covered the NBA Playoffs in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017 as well as Team USA Basketball in 2014 and 2016. He has also covered high school football and was nominated for a Midwest Emmy in 2016 for his work on a documentary featuring local Chicago product and NFL prospect Miles Boykin. Strotman graduated from Marquette University in 2012 and during his time there reported on the men’s basketball team, covering both the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament in 2011 and 2012.