Will Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and the suddenly dangerous Portland Trail Blazers make Charles Barkley’s prediction of winning the west come true?
Are the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors vulnerable with Kevin Durant banged-up or are the pre-Durant Dubs still the pick to win it all this year?
In the Eastern Conference two of the top five players on the planet will be looking to lead their teams to the promised land when Kawhi Leonard and the second-seeded Toronto Raptors take on Giannis Antetokounmpo and the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in what looks like a knock-down, drag-out thriller of a series just waiting to happen.
Okay NBA hoops fans and betting aficionados, with the start of the Western Conference finals getting underway in just over 48 hours and the east set to follow a day later, now is a perfect time to offer up my expert preview and analysis on both series showdowns.
2019 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Odds, Preview & Predictions
Portland Trail Blazers (61-33) vs. Golden State Warriors (65-29)
- 2019 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Odds: Portland Trail Blazers +400 / Golden State Warriors -550
Portland Trail Blazers
The third-seeded Trail Blazers have reached the conference finals for the first time since 2000, but their journey has been no fluke whatsoever as Damian Lillard completely and utterly embarrassed Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first found before C.J. McCollum was the primary catalyst in leading Portland to a thrilling Game 7 road win over Denver in the second round.
McCollum averaged 26.4 points per game against the Nuggets while putting up three games of 30 or more points and one 41-point explosion, not to mention his 37-point masterpiece in Game 7. In 12 games this postseason, Lillard is averaging a team-high 28.4 points per game while shooting 37.5 percent from distance. In a dozen playoff games, McCollum is averaging a cool 25.6 points per game while shooting a blistering 40.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Now, the Blazers hit the conference finals having won four of six and six of their last 10 games overall. Portland ranked sixth in scoring during the regular season (114.7 ppg) and a respectable 14th in points allowed (110.5 ppg). The Blazers topped the 100-point plateau in eight of their last 10 games while scoring at least 110 points a half dozen times.
Portland split four regular season meetings against Golden State by winning 110-109 in overtime on the road as an 8.5-point underdog on Dec. 27 and then spanking the Dubs 129-107 at home on February 13 to cash in as a 2-point home dog. Portland has gone 51-42-1 ATS this season including a scorching 37-10 SU at home and more modest 24-23 SU on the road.
Golden State Warriors
The top-seeded Warriors are looking to reach the NBA Finals for the fifth straight season and they’re looking quite dangerous again after blitzing Houston in six games while getting it done in the series finale by beating James Harden and company on the road without Kevin Durant, no less. Prior to missing the end of Game 5 and the entirety of Game 6, Durant is averaging a stupendous 34,2 points per game in the postseason while shooting 51.3 percent from the field, an impressive 41.6 percent from beyond the arc and 90.1 percent from the free throw line. While Durant’s availability is still in doubt because of the calf injury he suffered against Houston, Golden State actually might have found an entirely new (or old, depending on how you look at it), gear when they beat Houston with a pre-KD win that was eerily reminiscent of they style of ball they played before acquiring Durant in free agency a couple of years ago.
With Steph Curry has struggled with his shooting the entire postseason, the three-time champion and two-time league MVP is still averaging 24.3 points per game this postseason while shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc and 94.1 percent from the free throw line. More importantly, Curry is almost surely going to hit the conference finals with some renewed confidence after torching Houston fro 33 second half points in Game 6, including a stupendous 23 in the fourth quarter.
Curry’s ‘Splash Brothers’ partner in crime, Klay Thompson has also struggled shooting the rock, but like Curry, he came up huge in Games 5 and 6 against Houston by putting an identical 27 points on the board in each contest. While Thompson is averaging a modest 18.3 points per game this postseason, he’s still one of the most dangerous scorers in the league today.
Golden State ranked second in scoring in the regular season (117.7 ppg) while ranking a decent 16th in points allowed (111.2 ppg). The Warriors split four regular season meetings against Portland by winning 125-97 at home on Nov. 23 to cash in as a 1.5-point favorite before beating the Blazers 115-105 in Portland to cover the chalk as a 5-point favorite. The Warriors have gone 40-53-1 ATS this season while going 34-13 SU at Oracle Arena and a stellar 31-16 SU away from the comfy confines of home.
- Trail Blazers are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Trail Blazers are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight up win.
- Warriors are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 Conference Finals games.
- Warriors are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games following a straight up win.
- Warriors are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games.
- Warriors are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Warriors are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games following a ATS win.
- Over is 19-7 in the last 26 meetings.
- Trail Blazers are 5-2 ATS in the last 7 meetings.
- Trail Blazers are 9-22 ATS in the last 31 meetings in Golden State.
Western Conference Finals Schedule
- Game 1: Tue, May 14, Portland at Golden State, 9 ET, ESPN
- Game 2: Thu, May 16, Portland at Golden State, 9 ET, ESPN
- Game 3: Sat, May 18, Golden State at Portland, 9 ET, ESPN
- Game 4: Mon, May 20, Golden State at Portland, 9 ET, ESPN
- *Game 5: Wed, May 22, Portland at Golden State, 9 ET, ESPN
- *Game 6: Fri, May 24, Golden State at Portland, 9 ET, ESPN
- *Game 7: Sun, May 26, Portland at Golden State, 9 ET, ESPN
Toronto Raptors (66-28) vs. Milwaukee Bucks (68-23)
- 2019 NBA Playoffs Conference Finals Odds: Toronto Raptors +250 / Milwaukee Bucks -310
After getting past Orlando in five games, second-seeded Toronto needed to go the distance to get past a competitive Philly squad that just wouldn’t roll over for the Raptors. More importantly, all-star forward Kawhi Leonard showed the world that he is indeed back to being arguably the best player on the face of the planet by torching the Sixers for a whopping average of 34.7 points per game in the series while topping the 30-point mark five times and the 40-point mark twice, including his 41-point Game 7 performance that included a series-ending jump shot with time expiring. For the postseason, Leonard is averaging a stellar 31.8 points per game in a dozen contests.
Toronto also got five 20-plus point performances from blossoming forward Pascal Siakim (20.4 ppg) and some fantastic, if under-publicized, performances from veteran point guard Kyle Lowry despite the fact that he’s averaging a modest 12.4 points per game in the playoffs. The Raptors lost three of four against Milwaukee during the regular season while beating the Bucks 123-116 in Milwaukee on Jan. 5 to cash in as a 5.5-point road dog. Toronto ranked eighth in scoring during the regular season (114.4 ppg) while ranking an equally impressive ninth in points allowed (108.4 ppg). The Raptors are 44-50 ATS this season while going 37-11 SU at home and 29-17 SU on the road.
After sweeping an overmatched Detroit team in the first round, the Bucks smacked Boston around in five games, thanks mostly to the unstoppable play of superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo who averaged 28.4 points per game in the series while topping the 30-point mark three times and the 40-point plateau once.
Milwaukee has been getting some fantastic play from several of their core role players like Khris Middleton (19.1 ppg), Eric Bledsoe (16.0 ppg), Brook Lopez and Nikola Mirotic. The Bucks finished the regular season ranked first in scoring (118.1 ppg) and an encouraging 11th in points allowed (109.3 ppg).
The Bucks won three of four regular season meetings against Toronto by recording a 124-109 win at home on Oct. 29 to cash in as a 2.5-point home dog before recording a 104-99 road win on Dec. 9 as a 4.5-point road dog and then capping off their series by beating Toronto 105-92 on Jan. 31 as a 2.5-point road dog. Milwaukee is a bankroll-boosting 55-32-4 ATS this season while going 37-9 SU at home and 31-14 SU on the road.
- Raptors are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 when their opponent scores 100 points or more in their previous game.
- Raptors are 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS loss.
- Raptors are 6-13 ATS in their last 19 road games vs. a team with a home winning percentage of greater than .600.
- Raptors are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 vs. NBA Central.
- Bucks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games vs. a team with a winning straight up record.
- Bucks are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 vs. NBA Atlantic.
- Bucks are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following an SU or ATS win.
- Bucks are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS win.
- Bucks are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games.
- Bucks are 23-7-1 ATS in their last 31 games following a straight up win of more than 10 points.
- Bucks are 35-14-2 ATS in their last 51 vs. Eastern Conference.
- Bucks are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 home games vs. a team with a winning road record.
- Bucks are 5-14-1 ATS in their last 20 games playing on 3 or more days rest.
- Raptors are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Milwaukee.
- Over is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings.
- Raptors are 1-4 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
- Road team is 7-1 ATS in the last 8 meetings.
- Underdog is 7-0 ATS in the last 7 meetings.
Eastern Conference Finals Schedule
- Game 1: Wed, May 15, Toronto at Milwaukee, 8:30 ET, TNT
- Game 2: Fri, May 17, Toronto at Milwaukee, 8:30 ET, TNT
- Game 3: Sun, May 19, Milwaukee at Toronto, 7 ET, TNT
- Game 4: Tue, May 21, Milwaukee at Toronto, 8:30 ET, TNT
- *Game 5: Thu, May 23, Toronto at Milwaukee, 8:30 ET, TNT
- *Game 6: Sat, May 25, Milwaukee at Toronto, 8:30 ET, TNT
- *Game 7: Mon, May 27, Toronto at Milwaukee, 8:30 ET, TNT