NBA Finals Odds: Warriors Enter as Favorites

The 2022 NBA Finals tip off on Thursday night, four days after the Celtics won the East for the first time since 2010 and a week after the Warriors closed out Dallas in five games. Oddsmakers have again settled on the Warriors as the favorites. In six trips to the Finals under Steve Kerr, Golden State has been favored to win each time. At -150 on the money line, though, the Warriors enter as smaller favorites than they did any year from 2015-2019.

How Did They Get Here?

The Celtics and Warriors are both among the NBA’s most prominent franchises, but the road here wasn’t always smooth for either one. The Celtics looked dead in the water in January, when they fell as low as 11th in the East and hovered near .500. From January 29 on, though, the Celtics went 26-6, blistering teams with their defense and looking more like a cohesive unit in Ime Udoka’s system. Boston finished with the NBA’s top defensive rating at 106.2, leading the East with 5.8 blocks/game. While Jayson Tatum propelled the offense, Marcus Smart anchored the defense and was rewarded with his first Defensive Player of the Year award.

As the Celtics surged down the stretch, Golden State was fighting to stay near the top of the West. The Warriors went 12-16 over their last 28 regular season games, dealing with short-term absences of both Stephen Curry and Draymond Green, but they thrived once back to full strength, winning five straight to close out the season and gaining momentum throughout the playoffs as Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson heated up.

NBA Finals Odds History

2021) Suns -190 Bucks
2020) Lakers -350 Heat
2019) Warriors -275 Raptors
2018) Warriors -1075 Cavaliers
2017) Warriors -300 Cavaliers
2016) Warriors -220 Cavaliers
2015) Warriors -220 Cavaliers

How Do These Two Match Up?

The Celtics and Warriors faced off twice in the regular season, splitting the season series. Golden State won narrowly on the road in December, while Boston won 110-88 on the road in March. The Celtics’ win comes with a caveat – Draymond Green was out of the lineup, and Stephen Curry played only 13 minutes before injuring his foot. All of the Warriors’ stars are healthy this time around, and the task of slowing Golden State’s offense will be a challenge.

Take a look at that game in December. It wasn’t Stephen Curry who burned the Celtics; he shot 8/21. Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole didn’t even play. Andrew Wiggins was the star of the night, scoring 27 points. The Celtics may have the league’s best defense, but can any defense stop the Warriors when they have their death lineup on the court? Golden State is loaded with options who can make life difficult for even the strongest defenses. The Celtics may look to take advantage of a small Warriors lineup, but the recent explosion of Kevon Looney, who’s averaging 9.5 points and 12.5 rebounds over his last six games, makes that more difficult.

Boston finished with the best defensive rating in the NBA, but coming in at No. 2 was the Warriors. Scoring won’t come easy for the Celtics, who have been inconsistent on the offensive end of late. It’s worth watching the statuses of Gary Payton II and Andre Iguodala, who missed the Warriors’ series against Dallas. Payton could reportedly return as early as Game 1, but if he’s limited, the Celtics may have a depth advantage and catch a break on the offensive end.

If recent history is any indication, there is some value in the Celtics. No Eastern Conference team has entered the Finals as the favorite since 2013, but the East has won three of the last six Finals. Experience is on the Warriors’ side, but the same could’ve been said in 2019 when the Raptors (+225) captured the title. The Celtics have proven they can disrupt teams with their defense and win on the road – something they did three times in Miami. That doesn’t guarantee a win by any means, but it might mean Boston is worth a close look at +130.