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The NBA is now in its tensest part of the season, with only the four best teams from the past season left standing for a chance to participate in the Championship series. The NBA finals schedule is unrelenting, and there will be less than a week in between the conference finals ending and the championship series beginning.
But how are the teams shaping up? And what are the latest NBA odds that punters should be looking at?
The Golden State Warriors are the heavy favourites in the basketball betting markets to reach an unprecedented fifth Championship game. The dynasty that Steve Kerr has overseen has been quite remarkable, as they have claimed three titles in the past four years; and few would bet against them extending on that record. The Trail Blazers, on the other hand, are appearing in their first conference finals since 2000.
The opening game of their best-of-seven series was a comprehensive home-court win for Golden State. Kevin Durant, who is the leading scorer in the playoffs thus far, was missing for the home side, but they had few problems without their star man. Stephen Curry stepped up and scored a game-high of 36 points in their 116-94 win.
There were also double-digit returns from Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Only Damian Lillard can claim to be in the same run of form as Durant, but the Trail Blazers dealt with his threat effectively in Game One. Lillard could only record 19 points for the travelling side, while he was backed up by 17 point hauls from Rodney Hood, CJ McCollum and Maurice Harkless. However, the Trail Blazers never looked like getting close.
The series rolls on with another game at the Oracle, before the series switches to Portland for Games Three and Four.
This is the matchup that most the neutral fans for hoping for, and as the NBA odds suggested, it was a close affair in Game One. The Bucks haven’t reached this stage of the NBA season since 2001, while the Raptors are still looking for their maiden NBA Championships. However, in Kawhi Leonard, they could have the big-game player that is needed to achieve that goal.
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Leonard is one of the only players to have outshone Lebron James in an NBA Championship series, in the San Antonio Spurs victory over the Miami Heat in 2014. However, this season he has been reborn in Toronto, and he has never recorded a higher average of points. He recorded 41 points in Game Seven of the Raptors thrilling matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers; with the most notable being his last-gasp three-pointer that sealed Toronto’s spot in this conference final.
Meanwhile, the Bucks have a star of their own in Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek player has led the Bucks to this stage and was in fine form again during their enthralling Game One victory. He recorded 24 points, while Brook Lopez led the Bucks in their 108-100 win. By no means is this series done, however, the Raptors showed glimpses of their best in the opening game of the series, and were up on their previous recorded three-pointers, and led until the fourth quarter.
This will continue until a possible Game Seven, and the NBA odds will highlight that there will be very little separating these two teams that will leave everything on the court.