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Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Boston Celtics and the Golden State Warriors tips off Thursday night, which means there's no better time than the present to mute Stephen A. Smith and talk about this series. The Warriors are -160 to win their fourth championship in eight years and -3.5 on the spread for the opening game.
Here to break it all down with me are Yahoo Sportsbook writers Nick Bromberg, Sam Cooper, and Pete Truszkowski.
Who's your pick to win the NBA Finals?
NB: Warriors in 6. I’m a sucker for this comeback story. I feel like Golden State’s Finals experience will be a big asset here, even if Boston keeps this series competitive. Jayson Tatum is going to need to outplay Steph Curry for the Celtics to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
SC: Warriors in 7. I really think Boston’s defense is going to be able to disrupt the Warriors quite a bit, but the Warriors have the luxury of having guys like Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins who can score in a variety of ways. With those two complementing Steph Curry and Klay Thompson (and Draymond Green orchestrating it all), I think the Warriors ultimately come out with the title in a hard-fought series.
PT: Warriors in 7. It feels like these NBA playoffs have had a lot of back-and-forth with teams exchanging wins. Nine of 14 series so far have gone at least six games. I see no reason for that to change in the Finals. I’ll take the Warriors to win on their home court in Game 7.
GB: Celtics in 7. Defense travels and you won’t find a better defense than Boston's, which has helped it to a 7-2 mark on the road. The Celtics rank first in opponent 3-point percentage, which should come in handy against the Warriors.
Who's your favorite bet for Finals MVP?
NB: Both Curry and Tatum are at +175 or better for good reason. If I’m betting on a long shot, why not Wiggins at 40-to-1? Wiggins has been a seamless fit for the Warriors this year and has emerged as the perfect fourth offensive option. His versatility could make him extremely valuable against a very good Boston defense that will be keying on Curry and Thompson.
SC: Curry is the favorite for a reason but it’s worth taking a shot on Thompson at 18-to-1. There have been a few games during this postseason run that he has really come through late in games for the Warriors. Boston can send multiple guys at Curry over the course of a game, but Thompson should be there for plenty of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Poole at 35-to-1 is worth a look, too.
PT: At these odds, Klay Thompson sticks out at 18-to-1. He’s got five games these playoffs where he’s made at least five threes. He’s been a big part of this team for years now, and the narrative is there after his successful return from his long absence due to multiple injuries. I’ve got the Warriors winning, but don’t love the price on Steph, so might as well take the shot with Klay.
GB: Jason Tatum is likely the MVP if the Celtics win, but it makes no sense to bet him at +170 when that’s so close to Boston’s series price of +130. Instead, I’ll be looking toward Marcus Smart at 40-to-1. He’s turned his offense up a notch in the playoffs, averaging 15.5 points and 6.2 assists per game. As our colleague Ben Rohrbach noted, Smart has given Steph Curry hell when he’s guarded him, holding Curry to 36.7% shooting from the field and 30% from downtown. If Smart clamps the guy who everyone is picking for Finals MVP and scores some buckets in the process, this ticket will cash.
What do you think will be the X-factor in this series?
NB: The Celtics were able to get past the Heat in 7 games with Robert Williams either limited or completely absent because of his knee injury. After playing 27 and 26 minutes in Games 5 and 6 respectively, Williams played just 15 in Game 7. The Celtics have said that Williams will benefit with more rest and they need that to be the case. Williams needs to play at least half of every game for Boston to have a chance.
SC: I’ve got my eye on two things early in the series. First, I’m curious how Golden State plans to guard Jayson Tatum. Will it be a job for Andrew Wiggins? Will Klay Thompson get a look? Or will somebody like Gary Payton II, who is questionable for Game 1 after hurting his elbow in the Memphis series, be given the task. Secondly, the Warriors really need to limit their turnovers. We all love to see them whip the ball around so quickly on offense, but that style can lead to some careless turnovers and easy buckets for the opponent.
PT: It’ll be interesting to see what kind of impact Derrick White has on this series. He was tremendous in the second half of the Eastern Conference finals against Miami, averaging over 14 points, four assists and nearly four rebounds during Games 4-7. He shot 45% from the field, 35% from three and averaged two steals and a block per game during that stretch. He also was tremendous defensively. If White plays that way throughout this series, Boston becomes much more dangerous.
GB: I agree with Nick that Robert Williams’ health is probably the biggest X-factor in this series. He’s the league’s best-rated defender and can take away the cuts to the rim that Golden State likes to run. Time Lord was dominant in the first game of the Heat series and then looked severely hobbled in Game 7. This series could very well hinge on how effective he can be.