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Woods celebrating

NBA Championship outright odds (As of May 16)

Golden State Warriors: 1.54
Milwaukee Bucks: 3.00
Toronto Raptors: 9.50
Portland Trail Blazers: 30.00

The magic of Kawhi Leonard’s winning basket in Game 7 versus the Philadelphia 76ers – yeah, the Toronto Raptors are going to need more of that in this round.

The task was already tall enough.

The Raptors finished as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference standings at the conclusion of the regular season and have advanced within four wins of the NBA Finals. The only obstacles in their way right now is a Milwaukee Bucks team that not only finished tops in the East at the end of the regular season, but has nine wins and only one loss through two-plus rounds of post-season basketball.

They are rolling. Toronto, meanwhile, had to fight tooth and nail to edge out the 76ers, needing Leonard’s baseline jumper to drop at the buzzer in a winner-take-all game with Philly. Given where they finished in the standings, and how things have played out so far in these playoffs, it’s no surprise Toronto was the underdog entering this series.

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The Raptors’ odds to win the series have fallen to 4.00 at, as of Thursday, following a 108-100 loss to the Bucks in Game 1 the previous night.

The Raptors had the lead for the vast majority of the game and by as much as 13 points in the first half. That dwindled over time and the Bucks surged ahead for good late in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Raptors 32-17 during the final 12 minutes of play.

The Raptors went from having the opportunity to, at the very least, guarantee them a split of the first two games before the series shifted to Toronto, to needing a win on the road against a really good, red-hot team on Friday to get back on even terms.

Milwaukee was 33-8 at home this season, and is 5-1 at home in the playoffs.

As of Thursday, the Raptors were 6.5-point underdogs for Game 2. Toronto is 2-3 against the spread in its last five overall games and away games, while the Bucks are 5-0 against the spread in their last five games overall.

With Wednesday’s loss, the Raptors’ outright odds have shifted, as well.

Earlier in the week, Toronto’s championship odds were 6.75 at, but had shifted to 9.50 when we woke up Thursday morning. As of Wednesday, about 9.16 per cent of money wagered on the NBA Championship outright market was on Toronto.

You can look at two causes for this:

  1. The Raptors are not the Golden State Warriors.
  2. The Raptors have never made it beyond the conference championships, despite plenty of regular season success over the past few years.

Even with a player of Kawhi Leonard’s calibre, the Raptors simply need more from everyone else in order to just have a shot at advancing. They need that every quarter of every game of this series. If Leonard is good but not all-world spectacular, and others fail to pick up the slack, then the Raptors are in serious trouble.

Meanwhile, the Bucks continue to roll. Oddsmakers weren’t giving them much of a chance at a title – at least not before the start of the season. Milwaukee’s outright odds at one point in July of 2018 were 100.00 to win the NBA Championship, and 50.00 at the end of October.

They now stand at 3.00 at heading into Game 2 versus the Raptors on Friday. About 12.6 per cent of money has been wagered on Milwaukee to win it all this spring.

Not much of a surprise because – again – they are not the Golden State Warriors.

A dynasty team looking for *another* title, the Warriors are the favourites in the outright market with odds of 1.54 at Bettors have been backing them significantly, with almost 67 per cent of the total stake on Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors to win the championship.

The Warriors face the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Final.

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