The teams with the two best records in the NBA this season face off in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals today (3:30pm ET Sunday on ABC).
The top-seeded Golden State Warriors, fresh off of two sweeps, host the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs, who have had to work a bit harder in the first two rounds, winning both series in six games.
Golden State is the heavy favorite here. The Warriors are the more talented, more rested team playing against a banged up San Antonio squad. Tony Parker is out for the postseason with a torn quad muscle, and Kawhi Leonard sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets. He’s expected to play today after missing Game 6 against the Rockets, but how good he looks remains to be seen.
Will San Antonio pull off an upset or will the Warriors roll at home? We will dive into some important questions concerning this Game 1 matchup, then decide the contest’s outcome with some betting predictions and picks. Hopefully we can put one over on the best legal sportsbooks.
Is Kawhi Leonard Physically Ready to Carry the Spurs On Both Ends?
This is an obvious storyline to follow. The Warriors probably have four of the five best players in this series. If the one top-five guy they don’t have (Kawhi Leonard) isn’t fully himself, the Spurs are doomed to a blowout loss. San Antonio’s crisp ball movement and strong defensive principles can only go so far when the other team has so much more talent.
If Kawhi plays like he did against the Grizzlies and in the first half of the Rockets series, San Antonio stands a chance in this contest. Leonard was developing very nicely as a playmaker, which means he basically has no weaknesses as a player.
We saw Leonard carry the Spurs on both ends of the floor in the season-opening blowout victory over the Warriors with 35 points, five rebounds and five steals in just 32 minutes. While Golden State was admittedly still getting acclimated to each other, it’s notable that one superstar performance could topple the Warriors when none of its four stars really stood out.
Leonard isn’t going to submit one of those amazing performances if he’s not 100 percent.
Will the Warriors Be Rested or Rusty?
The rest vs. rust debate rages on in NBA communities. Is a team better off starting a playoff series on nearly a week of rest or having just three days between contests? There are plenty of examples to support both sides.
The Warriors should be fresher than the Spurs, since they got three additional days of preparation for the series. So will they come out of the gate looking fresh or out of rhythm?
A fresh, young Golden State team playing a battered, older Spurs team at home is a recipe for a Warriors beatdown. The hosting squad will create turnovers, contest every shot and get a bunch of points in transition.
If the Warriors look rusty, though, they’ll make silly turnovers and let the Spurs dictate the pace of the game. In that case, don’t rule out a San Antonio upset.
Will the Confidence of the Spurs’ Supporting Players Carry Over from Thursday?
One of the most surprising results in NBA playoff history occurred between the Spurs and Rockets on Thursday. Houston, down 3-2 in the series against a San Antonio team without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker for Game 6, lost by 39 points at home. No one could have predicted that outcome.
A big reason for the result was very uninspired basketball from James Harden and his teammates. San Antonio also played nearly flawless basketball, especially on the defensive end. The Spurs’ execution on that end of the floor, in theory, should only improve when reigning two-time Defensive Player of the Year Leonard returns
LaMarcus Aldridge (34 points and 12 rebounds in Game 6 against the Rockets) needs to keep fighting for deep position under the basket. Patty Mills (14 points and seven assists) must keep making great decisions with the basketball, and Jonathon Simmons (18 points and four assists) must continue to attack the rim with his top-notch athleticism.
Our Betting Preview’s San Antonio Spurs vs Golden State Warriors Game 1 Predictions & Picks
The Warriors are obviously the better team, and they’re playing at home. However, Game 1s can often yield anomalous results as squads feel each other out for the first time.
Especially since the Warriors could be rusty, I expect the better-coached Spurs to jump out to an early lead. However, I believe Golden State will storm back throughout the middle of the contest to take a lead, then the squad will let the Spurs back in the game again late in the contest. So here are my Game 1 predictions and betting picks:
- The Warriors are a 10-point favorite for Game 1. This is a very reasonable line, but I believe San Antonio will chip away at a Warriors double-digit lead in the second half and keep the margin in the single digits. Bet on the Spurs here + 10pts @ -107 best odds with BetOnline. Though it wouldn’t surprise us if that soon became -110 to fall into line with the likes of MyBookie and 5Dimes.
- 211 to 212 covers the most commonly listed over/unders for this game. I expect the rested Warriors to really push the pace in this contest to exploit their speed advantage against the Spurs. Bet the over 211 total points @ -115 with BetOnline. It is over 211.5pts for -110 with 5Dimes and MyBookie.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.