Following the Toronto Raptors’ masterful bludgeoning of the Miami Heat on Sunday, the NBA has officially entered its conference finals phase. With this development, let’s look at the odds, strengths, and weakness of the four remaining teams gunning for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Meanwhile, check out the updated Stanley Cup championship odds here.
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Golden State Warriors
The Warriors, in fact, are tops in the postseason in scoring (114.3 points per game) and in field goal percentage (48.0). The team’s depth also helped the Warriors cope up with Curry’s absence. The Warriors are also getting 41.1 points per contest from their relievers.
Weakness: Winning it all last year should make doubting the Warriors’ experience sound funny. But the one aspect that continues to be a question mark for Golden State this year is the health of its key players.
We’ve seen Curry got sidelined for a few contests already this postseason and while he’s fully recovered, the Warriors have another to worry about. That’s the perennially injured Andrew Bogut, who is currently labeled as questionable heading into Game 1 of the Western Conference final.
Strength: Stephen Curry is the MVP, but LeBron James is the better all-around player. Any team with a specimen like James knows it has a shot against any team—from this planet or not.
James aside, the Cavs’ outside shooting is what turns them into an extra-terrifying team to face. They’re making 16.8 threes per game this postseason, even managing to set a new record with 25 threes in Game 2 of their series versus Atlanta. The Cavs’ ability to stretch the floor without sacrificing size (Kevin Love and Channing Frye) also gives them enough versatility to match up with anyone.
Weakness: The Cavs are shooting 46.2% from deep in the playoffs. That’s high. That’s also a big candidate to go down according to the law of averages. At some point, the Cavs will have to slash their way to the basket or make plays off the post when their outside shots are not falling down. In that case, they’ll make more trips to the free throw line. The problem is that they’re shooting just 68.9 from there since the postseason started.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Strength: Oklahoma City is going as far as Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant take them. The duo is generating 52.9 points per game, which is more than half of the team’s total of 105.9.
But for all the talk and hype surrounding Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder are also drawing big time production from their frontline trio of Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter, and Steven Adams. The play of OKC’s biggies has played a large part in the team ranking third in the playoffs with in rebounding with 46.2 per outing.
Weakness: Sometimes, too much Westbrook is bad for the Thunder. Take for example the Thunder’s 100-96 loss to San Antonio in Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinals series. Westbrook scored 31 points in that game with nine rebounds and eight assists but shot 10-for-31 from the field. Westbrook has to choose his shots wisely and get Durant more involved on offense if the Thunder are to bring home the franchise’s first NBA title in OKC.
Strength: The Raptors can be wildly inefficient on offense but they sure know how to defend. The Raptors are limiting their foes to only 94.1 PPG in the postseason, while also forcing them to commit 14.3 turnovers per outing.
Weakness: Somehow the Raptors managed to outlast Miami in the second round thanks to clutch performances from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who dropped 28 and 35 points, respectively, in a 116-89 Game 7 win over the Heat.
That game was the apex of Toronto basketball, with their top stars shooting well and their defense clicking. The problem, however, for Toronto is that DeRozan and Lowry can sometimes suddenly disappear without warning. The two will have to be consistent for the Raptors to at least last long against the Cavs in the ECF.
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