We’ve already had plenty of drama in the 2019 NBA postseason, as Kawhi Leonard became the first player in the storied history of the Association to drain a buzzer-beater to win a Game 7, as his desperation heave over Joel Embiid clanked around the rim four times before it went home. They now face a rested Milwaukee Bucks team in the Eastern Conference finals for the right to take on the winners of the Western Conference in the NBA Finals. The Portland Trail Blazers mounted an epic comeback on the road in Game 7 to eliminate the Denver Nuggets, and now they will face a Golden State Warriors team that was able to knock out the Houston Rockets in six games, winning the last two without Kevin Durant. We have NBA betting thoughts about each of the two matchups.
2019 NBA Conference Finals Betting Preview
👀 the current #NBAPlayoffs bracket ahead of Conference Finals!
POR/GSW: Tuesday (5/14), 9pm/et, ESPN
TOR/MIL: Wednesday (5/15), 8:30pm/et, TNT pic.twitter.com/A7yTgKOEBH
— NBA (@NBA) May 13, 2019
Eastern Conference: Milwaukee Bucks vs Toronto Raptors
- 2019 NBA Conference Finals Series Odds: Bucks -290 / Raptors +235
Entire Series on TNT — all times Eastern
- Game 1: Wednesday, May 15, 8:30pm (at Milwaukee)
- Game 2: Friday, May 17, 8:30pm (at Milwaukee)
- Game 3: Sunday, May 19, 7:00pm (at Toronto)
- Game 4: Tuesday, May 21, 8:30pm (at Toronto)
- *Game 5: Thursday, May 23, 8:30pm (at Milwaukee)
- *Game 6: Saturday, May 25, 8:30pm (at Toronto)
- *Game 7: Monday, May 27, 8:30pm (at Milwaukee)
The Milwaukee Bucks lost their series opener in somewhat emphatic fashion against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals — but then reeled off four straight wins to send Boston home for the offseason. Milwaukee will have had a week of rest before this series opener, and they also get Malcolm Brogdon back at the point from injury. Their offense begins with Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is scoring 27.4 points per game in these playoffs, which is almost identical to his regular season scoring percentage — but he’s not scoring inside as much. During the regular season, he scored 63.1% of his points in the paint, but in the postseason that number has dropped to 55.1%. Some of this has to do with the success that Boston had in Game 1 of their series in clogging the paint, but all the Greek Freak has done is make more shots from the outside.
On defense, the Bucks have the best field goal percentage defense of any of the four teams remaining in the playoffs, and part of this strategy involves limiting three-point shots from the corners while permitting them to shoot from above the break. One thing the Bucks will learn from watching Toronto and Philadelphia’s Game 7 film is that the Raptors only had one significant offensive contributor: Kawhi Leonard. The final score of that game was 92-90, as Philadelphia was held 24 points below their postseason average. Toronto shot 38.2% on the night, and Raptors not named Kawhi only took 50 shots combined, making 18 of them. They will need more offense to beat the Bucks — and I’m not sure the Toronto defense can shut down the Bucks like they did the 76ers.
Series Prediction: Milwaukee wins in 7.
Western Conference: Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trail Blazers
- 2019 NBA Conference Finals Series Odds: Warriors -575 / Trail Blazers +425
Entire series on ESPN — all times Eastern
- Game 1: Tuesday, May 14, 9:00pm (at Golden State)
- Game 2: Thursday, May 16, 9:00pm (at Golden State)
- Game 3: Saturday, May 18, 9:00pm (at Portland)
- Game 4: Monday, May 20, 9:00pm (at Portland)
- *Game 5: Wednesday, May 22, 9:00pm (at Golden State)
- *Game 6: Friday, May 24, 9:00pm (at Portland)
- *Game 7: Sunday, May 26, 9:00pm (at Golden State)
Golden State has already suffered two major injuries, losing DeMarcus Cousins to a torn quadricep in the opening round and then Kevin Durant to a calf strain in the second round. However, the Warriors remain heavy betting favorites to eliminate Portland and advance to the NBA Finals for a fifth straight year, an accomplishment that no one has completed since the 1950s and 1960s, when the Boston Celtics seemed to win the title every year. Cousins could return during this series, and Durant may return as well. Even without them, though, they have Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, who put up 60 combined points for a Game 6 win in Houston. The worker bees for the Warriors — Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and even Andrew Bogut all chipped in and delivered a win. However, all of these players have flaws, so the longer Durant and Cousins remain out, the more of a puncher’s chance the Trail Blazers have.
These Portland Trail Blazers are much different from the 2017-18 edition that ended up bouncing out of the playoffs in the first round. Damian Lillard eliminated the Oklahoma City Thunder almost single-handedly, and then CJ McCollum carried the Trail Blazers in their Game 7 comeback win. Enes Kanter has emerged as a force inside to replace Jusuf Nurkic, but the Trail Blazers will need more consistency from Mo Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu to have a chance against the Warriors. Even so, the backcourt is scoring 54 points per game, while pulling down almost 11 rebounds and dishing out more than 9 assists per game. Their ball security has been solid. But can they hang with the Warriors?
Series Prediction: Golden State wins in 6.