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NBA Playoffs 2019: Updated Championship Odds and Conference Finals Preview

John HealyContributor IMay 13, 2019

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) walks upcourt after a play during the second half in Game 6 of the team's second-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets, Friday, May 10, 2019, in Houston. Golden State won 118-113, winning the series. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eric Gay/Associated Press

It took two Game 7s to decide everything, but the NBA conference finals are set with as Golden State Warriors will face the Portland Trail Blazers in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks will square off against the Toronto Raptors in the East.

The field appears to have been leveled after a strained calf injury to Kevin Durant, but the Warriors are still the team to beat as they strive for their third consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals and fifth straight Western Conference title. 

The Bucks remain the favorites in the East with MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the way to Milwaukee's first Eastern Conference Finals since 2001. The Raptors are hoping for their first NBA Finals appearance after being ousted by the Cleveland Cavaliers for the East title in 2016. 

The Trail Blazers snapped its own conference finals drought, contesting for the West title for the first time since 2000 after their Game 7 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

      

Updated championship odds (via VegasInsider.com)

Golden State Warriors 1-2

Milwaukee Bucks 3-1

Toronto Raptors 15-1

Portland Trail Blazers 15-1

      

Can the Warriors keep up success without Kevin Durant?

The Warriors reminded everyone they are still a dominant team without Durant with wins in Games 5 and 6 to close out their series against the Houston Rockets. They will likely be without Durant for the first two games of the series, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com (via CBSSports.com). 

The two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to reevaluated by doctors this week. Even if Durant returns, he may not be 100 percent healthy, which means that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are going to need to play the way the did in the final six quarters against the Rockets. 

The Splash Brothers turned the clock back to the pre-Durant days, especially Curry, who had not been playing up to his MVP standards against the Rockets until he scored 20 of his 25 points in Game 5 of the second half. He led the Warriors with 33 points in Game 6, including a series-best 36.4 percent shooting from three-point range.

Thompson also rose to the occasion and scored 27 points in those final two games and was 53.8 percent from three-point range in Game 6.

Yet the Trail Blazers have a tough backcourt of their own in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. 

Lillard was the hero in the first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, draining a deep buzzer-beating three-pointer to clinch the series in five games. Lillard is averaging 29.8 points and 5.8 assists per game in the playoffs while shooting 44.9 percent from the field. 

McCollum was clutch in Game 7 against the Nuggets as he blocked a shot in the final five minutes and scored 37 points, including six of his team's final eight points to seal the victory:

Sports Notes🎙 @TheSportsNotes

C.J. MCCOLLUM, CLUTCH! https://t.co/W22Y3ucnfX

The two match up nicely against Curry and Thompson, but the Warriors have battle-tested veterans in Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala if Durant is unable to return. The Blazers do not have anyone of that ilk to match up with them unless the likes of Enes Kanter and Evan Turner can step up. Game 1 is Tuesday night at Golden State.

      

Can Raptors carry Game 7 momentum?

The Raptors are coming off an emotional Game 7 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers thanks to Kawhi Leonard's buzzer-beater that bounced around the rim for the win:

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

KAWHI. GAME 7. FOR THE WIN. https://t.co/MH9CBjQ2uK

Leonard has been a dominant force for the Raptors all postseason, averaging 31 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Clearly no moment is too small for the former NBA Finals MVP. 

Toronto will certainly look to carry that momentum over into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bucks, who will go a week without playing before they tip off against Toronto at home on Wednesday. 

Milwaukee has also been head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference all season, winning 60 games under head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was part of four NBA championship teams as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich. 

The star power of Leonard and Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 27.4 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, will surely be fun to watch as the potential for another long, closely battled series awaits. 

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