Raptors make NBA Finals debut as narrow home favourites

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Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) drives to the basket against Golden State Warriors forward Jordan Bell (2). (Jeff Chiu/AP)

The Toronto Raptors will make their first-ever appearance in the NBA Finals on Thursday night when they hit the hardwood against the defending champion Golden State Warriors as slim 1-point favourites on the NBA odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Toronto claimed its berth in the NBA Finals by knocking off the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Finals, recovering from a 2-0 series deficit to post four straight wins ahead of Thursday night’s Game 1 matchup at Scotiabank Arena.

The Raptors have steadily gained momentum during the longest playoff run in the franchise’s 24-year history. After getting past the Orlando Magic in five games in the first round, Toronto engaged in an epic battle with the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, and needed seven games to win the series and return to the Eastern Finals for the second time in four years.

Pegged as +225 underdogs on the NBA series prices entering their clash with the Bucks, the Raptors demonstrated the value of their recent playoff experience after suffering a demoralizing 125-103 loss in Game 2, outlasting Milwaukee in a marathon 118-112 win in double-overtime in Game 3 as 2.5-point chalk, and overcoming double-digit deficits in Games 5 and 6 to seal the series victory.

Kawhi Leonard has emerged as the hero of the Raptors’ historic run. The former NBA Defensive Player of the Year has averaged 31.2 points per game so far in the post-season while topping 30 points in 11 outings, just two short of the NBA record set by Michael Jordan in 1989.

Leonard also leads all players in the post-season in points scored with 561, 124 more than his nearest competitor. But despite his spectacular play, Leonard sits second on the odds to claim NBA Finals MVP honours for the second time in his career, trailing Stephen Curry at +250.

The Raptors’ character performance against the Sixers has also done little to boost them on the NBA series prices, where they trail as +230 underdogs entering Game 1. However, Toronto has enjoyed recent success against the Warriors. The Raptors were the only team in the NBA to sweep their season series with Golden State, posting two victories to end an eight-game slide, capped by a lopsided 113-93 win at Oracle Arena on December 12.

However, Toronto will now host a well-rested Warriors squad that rides a six-game win streak into their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance, and sit as heavy -280 chalk at online betting sites to become the first team to win three straight titles since the 2002 Los Angeles Lakers.

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