NBA Finals Betting — Banged-Up Warriors May Have to Shift Gears in Game 3


It seems you can’t really write up an accurate game preview for this Warriors-Raptors series these days until about 20 minutes before the opening tip, because you’re never sure who is going to play. This time it’s Klay Thompson’s status that is in some doubt as Game 3 of the NBA Finals approaches (9:05 PM ET, Oracle Arena – Oakland, ABC).

What we are sure of is that Kevin Durant will not suit up here, although the two-time Finals MVP may come back on Friday. And there’s a new casualty, as Kevon Looney, with a collarbone injury, is out for the duration.

Thompson suffered a hamstring injury, and is questionable on the sheet, but he has given every intention of playing. He has made seven of his 12 three-point attempts, but we would frankly be wondering how much he will lose on the defensive end with his mobility below 100%.

The good news for the Warriors is that DeMarcus Cousins is back and looked good in Game 2, scoring eleven points with ten rebounds in 27-1/2 minutes. But he also had his difficulties on defense, with five fouls.

Golden State won a 109-104 decision on Sunday, powered by an 18-0 run in the third quarter as the Raptors looked like they were pretty much standing still. The Dubs have trailed both of these games at the half, but have shot 52% in the second half.

In the NBA Finals betting odds for this one, the Warriors are favored, although the line has been dropping:

Golden State Warriors -4.5 (-105)
Toronto Raptors +4.5 (-105)

Over 213 points (-105)
Under 213 points (-105)

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I had been thinking off the top of my head that Durant returning to action might have some effect on team chemistry at first, since after weeks out of action, it might take him a game or two to get back into the swing of things. But as he would be coming back into a rotation that is without Looney, and has Cousins playing a role when maybe he not expected to, the “chemistry” thing might not even matter.

But what DOES matter is the way that the Raptors are going to handle defending the Warriors in this particular game, which is why the availability of Thompson is such a key factor.

If Klay can’t play, Golden State will be stuck for guys who can score. We know full well that Cousins can do that; he has been a 20-plus per-game scorer throughout his career. and tallied more 16 points per contest this season, even in a crowded G-State lineup. I don’t think Steve Kerr has any reservations about running more plays through Cousins, if that is what the situation came to. Theoretically, he would be able to pass out of the pivot and find shooters on the perimeter.

But if Thompson wasn’t involved, those shooters would be limited. You’ve have Steph Curry, but then you’d have to hope that someone could get hot from the outside, like Andre Iguodala or Quinn Cook. And if Cook could make three out of five attempts from beyond the arc in every game, he’s be in someone’s starting lineup somewhere. But he can’t.

But looking for a lot of shots in the paint from Cousins would be counter-intuitive to what the Warriors really do. No team in this year’s playoffs has shot less frequently in the paint than they have.

And furthermore, Toronto isn’t badly-equipped to defend an offense that is, well, “center-centric.” Remember, they have a former Defensive Player of the Year in Marc Gasol starting in the pivot, and another guy behind him in Serge Ibaka who has been on multiple All-Defensive teams. So they can have a fresh big man in there at all times.

For what it’s worth, Gasol and Cousins have played against each other 23 times in their NBA careers. Over those 23 games, Cousins has shot just 43% from the floor.

But take note that Gasol has been a home-biased offensive performer throughout these playoffs. When he’s been on the road, his effective field goal percentage is just 38.7%.

Have you noticed that Toronto is getting some offensive rebounds? Their rate is 25%, which is much higher than it was in their previous series. I wonder if that continues.

The “referee trend” angle didn’t work last time with the Raptors. They had gone into Game 2 having won 15 of their last 16 games when they were officiated by Tony Brothers. As usual, we wait until after 9 AM ET, when the assignments are announced, and we see that the crew chief is Marc Davis. Toronto is a spotless 7-0 with him blowing the whistle.

That’s food for thought.

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