The Golden State Warriors are trying to cement their place as an all-time team by winning their fourth NBA title in five seasons.
Bettors believe that they will do just that and are overwhelmingly backing them in Game 1, despite the Warriors potentially being an underdog in an NBA Finals game for the first time since 2016.
Caesars sportsbook opened Golden State as a 1.5-point road favorite late on Saturday night, but quickly moved to Toronto -1 on Sunday. A combination of respected Raptors bets, the market and Kevin Durant being officially ruled out of Game 1 have shifted the line.
The Raptors were consensus 1-point favorites at sportsbooks on Thursday afternoon.
“[We’ve seen] incredible even series money with a lot of handle,” Caesars director of trading Jeff Davis told ESPN. “Public is blasting away on Warriors (80% of bets) for Game 1. We took two respected bets on the Raptors when we opened on the 26th. Rest has been Warriors.”
The story was the same at other Las Vegas books, as over 75% of Game 1 tickets and 76% of the money was on the Warriors at the SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas, as of Thursday afternoon.
“We’ve heard some other respected players are on Toronto and I think it’s a must-win, even though it’s Game 1,” John Murray, executive director at the SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas, told ESPN. “We moved with the market.”
FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey had over 90% of moneyline bets on Golden State and 84% of spread bets as well, per FanDuel director of publicity Kevin Hennessy. Bettors have also backed the Warriors to win the series, with Golden State winning 4-1 (22% of bets) and sweeping 4-0 (20%) the most popular wagers at FanDuel. Golden State is a -300 favorite for the series at Caesars, with the Raptors +250.
“We’ve seen some big bets on Golden State to win the series, including $77,000 on the Warriors at -300 on Wednesday,” Murray said. “A few other five-five wagers on Golden State as well. We’re rooting for Toronto in Game 1.”
“We are in a win-win position on the series, but tickets are 2-1 on the Warriors side for Game 1 and the money is also on that side,” Tony DiTommaso, director of race and sports at CG Technology, told ESPN in a text message. “Our future position is a nice win to either side.”
The SuperBook took a $30,000 wager on the Warriors at -310 odds late Thursday afternoon and William Hill US reported taking a $25,000 bet on the Warriors at -270 to win the title on May 25.
Per ESPN Stats & Information, underdogs in the NBA Finals of at least +200 odds are 1-19 over the last 50 years. The only team to pull off the upset was the 2004 Detroit Pistons over the Los Angeles Lakers at +500 odds.