Sports Betting

Golden State or Toronto? There are cases to be made for betting for either team.

After a dramatic rally from a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Toronto Raptors will take on the Golden State Warriors to determine the 2019 NBA champion.

That surprising showcase begins Thursday night north of the border (ABC, 8 p.m.). Early betting was active in Las Vegas…

The Westgate in Las Vegas was up quickly with a series price of Golden State -275 to advance (risk $275 to win $100, or anything in that ratio), and a price of +225 on Toronto to spring the upset (risk $100 to win $225). Earlier during the Eastern finals, it was anticipated that Golden State would be closer to -400, Toronto +300. Nevada is “Warriors country” because of its proximity to California. And, many casual bettors prefer betting on the superior team rather than white-knuckling an underdog play. When pricing, oddsmakers had to weigh those dynamics against the improved form of Toronto during its four-win tear.

Warriors money jumped in very quickly at -275, causing a surge to -310 from the Westgate in hopes of discouraging a gold rush. Toronto rose to +250.

Sharp dog lovers pounced on the Raptors at that price, bringing the Westgate back to -300/+240. There was plenty of variance in Las Vegas and offshore, which gave investors an opportunity to shop for the best possible price.

If you split the difference with -300/+240, that represents Golden State claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy about 73% of the time, Toronto 27%.

The point spread in Game One opened at Golden State -1, only to see money come in hard on host Toronto. After crossing pick-em, the line spent some time at Toronto -1, before settling back at equilibrium early in the week.

Why is Golden State such an overwhelming series favorite when Toronto has home court advantage in the best-of-seven?

That line of pick-em in Toronto gives you a hint. Based on current perceptions of these finalists, Golden State will be about 50/50 to win each of four possible road games (higher if Kevin Durant can return at full strength). The Warriors will be closer to 70% to win their home games straight up at point spreads in the range of -6.5 to -7.5.

Turning the percentages into decimals (.5 wins in each of four road games, .7 wins in each of three home games), the Warriors would end seven games with 4.1 wins and 2.9 losses.

We may see some game-by-game point spread variance depending on bounce-back situations, or the possibility that Toronto runs out of gas and gives up hope. Sports books will update series prices after every result.

As you consider your possible bets…

The case for Golden State: Experience, depth (the Warriors just swept Portland without Kevin Durant), and a proven penchant for using extra gears when needed on both sides of the floor. Also, quants in particular have noticed that Golden State is comfortable at fast or slow paces. Toronto took command in the East Finals after slowing the pace way down vs. Milwaukee. Golden State swept Portland at similarly slow speeds.

The case for Toronto: Sharps don’t necessarily have to believe that the Raptors “will” win to bet them for value. They might think that a series money line return of +250 wasn’t giving Toronto enough credit for upset potential. If you believe Golden State should only be 67% to 33% to win the series (or tighter), then Toronto is clearly a value bet at +250 or more. Upsets do happen. Sharps will bet underdogs if they believe oddsmakers have mispriced the possibility of a surprise by underestimating Toronto’s grit three-point shooting acumen.

Enjoy the NBA Finals! Check out VSiN’s livestreams for game-day market coverage. We’ll review early action for you right here next week.

Other notes

As the NBA is winding down, the WNBA is starting up. This is a popular betting sport with sharps because the market is fairly soft. Oddsmakers have other concerns because the general public hasn’t shown much interest. Quants with easy access to box scores and game telecasts can grind out a profit despite relatively low betting limits.

The Las Vegas Aces, early market favorites to win the title because of injuries to many big-name stars across the league, will make a national TV appearance Friday at Phoenix (ESPN2, 8 p.m.). If you enjoy betting basketball, think about giving the WNBA a try this summer.

In Major League Baseball, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees begin a huge four-game series Thursday night (telecasts on the MLB Network, FOX, and ESPN through the weekend). The Bronx Bombers have been playing championship caliber baseball despite the absence of many injured stars. Defending World Champion Boston dug an early hole that it needs to escape from soon to avoid settling for a wildcard spot (or missing the playoffs!).

Currently, the Yanks are about 6/1 in a global composite of futures odds to win the World Series. The Red Sox have fallen to 12/1.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at