The big news out of Toronto on Sunday was that Kevin Durant was going to practice with his younger teammates in the hope that he will be able to play for the first time in more than a month as the Golden State Warriors try to stay alive in the NBA Finals.
Let’s just say the skeptics outweighed the optimists.
The line on the game, which opened at Toronto -2.5, did not move at all following Warriors coach Steve Kerr’s news conference expressing hopefulness that Durant might be available for Game 5 on Monday night. (Editor’s note: The line dropped to Toronto -1.5 on Monday morning.)
Here is a transcript of the exchange with reporters in Toronto.
Q. Is Kevin any closer to being able to play tomorrow?
STEVE KERR: He’s going to practice with us today, and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger layers. We’ll gauge it from there.
Q. Are you more hopeful than you have been the last couple days?
STEVE KERR: Yeah, because what he’s going to do today he hasn’t done. He’s doing more today and then we’ll know more after that.
Cautious optimism was infectious, as evidenced by Draymond Green’s comments: “Obviously for him to be practicing today means he is taking steps in the right direction. We’ll see what that means for tomorrow. Obviously, hopefully it means he’s able to play and give whatever he can to the team.”
But what will that be?
Durant has not played since injuring his calf muscle on May 8 against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals. Lest anyone forget, he had a 45-point game and a 50-point game in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, and a 46-point game against Houston four days before he was injured.
Even if he can play at 75 percent, there is no arguing that it will provide a much-needed boost to a Golden State team that looked like a sure thing following Game 2 when they won in Toronto to even the series. But since then, Kawhi Leonard has been the most dominant player in the series, and we are one Toronto victory away from the Larry O’Brien Trophy being handed off by Commissioner Adam Silver in a country other than the United States.
There is no question that the powers that be at the NBA would like this series to go back to Oakland for a Game 6, because once the action stops on the court there will be nothing but rumors and speculation regarding the draft and free agency between now and the end of the month.
Those stories keep the NBA relevant during a time when there are plenty of other sports for people to watch, and the NBA enjoys the publicity. But much of what will be reported will be pure conjecture up until draft night, when deals will go down and teams will be clearing cap space for the most prized free agent class to come around in nine years. And yes, Durant is one of those who is expected to find a new home.
Once we move closer to gametime and get a better read on whether Durant will or will not play, the lines and prop bets that are on the board will change.
But for now, we can only focus on what’s up there …. and where the wagering opportunities are most opportunistic.
Game 5 betting options
So let’s go back to Game 4 and see what might transfer over to Game 5.
For one thing, Klay Thompson crushed the over/under early on and finished with 28 points, and adjustments have been made. Both DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook have put his point total over/under at 22.5, with the highest numbers on the board belonging to Steph Curry (32.5 at FanDuel and 31.5 at DraftKings) and Leonard (31.5 at both books).
DeMarcus Cousins scored only 6 points in Game 4, and since he is also entering free agency and needs to be a helluva lot more productive in Game 5 in order to send the series back to Oakland, it is worth taking a gamble on his point total over/under. Problem is, there is none yet … although you can get him at 12-1 at FanDuel to score the first basket of the game.
Serge Ibaka was a monster off the bench in Game 4 with 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting in just 22 minutes, and his over/under is at 8.5 at both books (ka-ching!).
Draymond Green finished one rebound shy of a triple-double, which is why he is listed at just +210 at DraftKings and +250 at FanDuel. Kyle Lowry is 41-1 to get a triple-double, Leonard is 47-1, and Pascal Siakam is 100-1.
Expecting an overtime game? (Yes, we are due for one). The odds of that happening are 13-1 at DraftKings and just shy of 15-1 at FanDuel.
So what is the best bet? Heck, that is for the gambler to decide.
What might make for the best payoff? Take your pick from the stuff listed above. And remember this: The Warriors will be playing with desperation, and that is always a major factor.
But the Raptors have the momentum, and if you think this one is going to be a blowout in Toronto’s favor, you can get them at 55-1 to win by 28 points or more.