The Golden State Warriors have long been the favorite to win the NBA championship this season, and as they try for a record 73rd regular season win on Wednesday nothing has really changed. If anything, the Warriors (-140) have become an even bigger favorite at the sportsbooks.
Many people might second-guess laying a number like -140 - especially for a team that's in the Western Conference and will have to go through two other teams that have won at least 50 games - but this Warriors team has been on another level. The latest piece of evidence arrived in Sunday's win when they went into San Antonio - the second-best team in the NBA - and handed them their first home loss of the season.
While the Spurs (+300) are second in line according to the odds, many people feel that a loss like that is very damning. How are they going to beat Golden State without home court advantage? The Spurs lost the season series 3-1.
If it's not the Spurs who'll slow them down in the Western Conference playoffs, it'll likely have to be either the Oklahoma City Thunder (+1200) or Los Angeles Clippers (+2800). Both are talented enough to do it, but neither option is that encouraging. The Thunder might have the best one-two punch in the NBA with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, but as a collective unit the team is 16th in points per game allowed (103.3) and is 27th in turnovers per game (15.5). They also were swept 3-0 in their season series with the Warriors.
As for the Clippers, they were also swept in their season series (4-0), and went just 3-14 against teams with a record of .600 or better.
In the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers (+350) are the top dog, but they're a team that's had a lot of ups and downs this season. They are just 17-10 over their last 27 games, which isn't bad, but that's a notable drop-off from the team that only lost 14 times in their first 54 games. Of concern has to be their defense, which is ranked outside of the top 10 for opponent field goal percentage (14th) and opponent three-point field goal percentage (11th). They've also had some challenges rebounding the ball down the stretch, ranking just 13th in the category since the All-Star break.
The Toronto Raptors (+3300) are in the futures conversation as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, although they aren't expected to be a serious threat to Cleveland or any of the top teams in the Western Conference. The statistics support the pessimism as they are 18th in rebounding, 14th in field goal percentage and second-last in opponent three-point field goal percentage. They have had a fantastic year and will likely end up with at least 55 wins, but they've gone cold as the playoffs approach. They are just 6-5 in their last 11 contests.
The Warriors were an incredible 16-1 against teams with a record of .600 or better. The Cavaliers were 8-5, the Raptors were 9-6, the Spurs were 8-8 and the Thunder were 7-9. That's why the Warriors are such a heavy favorite to win the NBA championship this spring.