The lines have been drawn, the matchup has been set and we're all ready for the 2017 NBA Finals. Beginning on Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will do battle for the biggest prize in basketball.
While the Golden State-Cleveland matchup has seemed inevitable for some time, it doesn't mean the final series of the season won't be entertaining. It should be. If you're looking to make things a little more entertaining, we've got some information for you.
We're going to run down the latest odds for Game 1, shared by our friends at OddsShark. We'll also look at some other intriguing options available for your wagering pleasure and provide input for each.
2017 NBA Finals
What: Cleveland at Golden State
When: Thursday, June 1
Time: 9 p.m. ET
National TV: ABC
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: GS 1-3
Props and Picks
If you're looking to wager on the series as a whole, you may want to take a look at betting on the Finals MVP. This is a little riskier than betting on the series winner—there are only two options there, obviously—but it could yield a bigger payoff.
According to OddsShark, the odds for Finals MVP are as follows:
Stephen Curry: 21-10
Kevin Durant: 21-10
LeBron James: 13-5
Draymond Green: 11-2
Kyrie Irving: 16-1
Klay Thompson: 20-1
Kevin Love: 33-1
The trick to this particular bet is to decide which team you believe is going to win before the series begins. The value for a Finals MVP is typically going to decrease with each passing game. If, for example, the Cavaliers go up 2-1 in the series and LeBron James is playing particularly well, his odds are likely to shorten.
We'll give a slight edge to the Warriors in the series—based on their overall collection of talent and on their possession of home-field advantage.
For MVP, we'll go with Kevin Durant, who is looking to push his career to new heights with the Warriors. Sure, he came to Golden State to chase a ring, but as teammate Draymond Green explained, he also came to push himself as a player.
"He doesn't seem like he's overjoyed or anything like that," Green said, per of the Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. "Excited to be headed to the Finals, but at the same time, he knows he didn't make the decision he made to go to the Finals. He made the decision he made, No. 1, for his own life."
Many of Durant's Warriors teammates have won the NBA title before. While this doesn't mean they aren't hungry to win another, he is the one playing for his legacy in the series. Because of this motivating factor, bank on Durant here.
Race to 20
One interesting Game 1 prop we found over at Oddschecker is a race to 20 points. While the odds vary, they're roughly 8-15 in favor of Golden State.
We have to agree with the perception that the Warriors will be the first team to reach 20 points in Game 1 for a couple of reasons. One is the fact Golden State has been playing better defense this postseason than Cleveland.
While the Cavaliers have certainly been better defensively since the end of the regular season, they're still allowing an average of 103.2 points per game in the postseason. The Warriors, meanwhile, are allowing 102 points per game in the playoffs. This might not seem like a major difference—and it isn't over four quarters—but the fact remains Golden State has still been better.
Offensively, the Warriors just have too many weapons to stop out of the gate. The only time Golden State failed to score more than 20 points in the opening quarter came in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors still managed to win that game 113-111, and we can't expect a similarly slow start on Thursday.
The Warriors are playing at home in Game 1 and should have the early momentum.
Warriors Total Points
Another interesting prop highlighted at Oddschecker involves the Warriors and their points total for Game 1. There's an over/under set at 113.5 points with 3-2 odds on the under, which is what we're going to take.
We've lauded the Warriors' offensive prowess and home-field advantage, but here's the thing: Scoring 114 points in a Finals game is difficult. The Cavaliers achieved the feat twice in last year's Finals. The Warriors failed to do so once.
The Cavaliers have also not allowed a team to score more than 111 points in a single game in this postseason. While the Warriors topped the 114-point mark in three of four matchups against the Spurs, Cleveland presents a different and more physical challenge altogether.
We still back the Warriors to take Game 1 at home, but we're not so sure they'll produce the offensive dominance we've seen recently through four full quarters.