Best bets for potential NBA Finals matchups
Mark Blinch / National Basketball Association / Getty

The NBA playoff picture is starting to take shape as we gear up for the second half of the season. The rest of the league is chasing the Golden State Warriors, the current chalk at -200 or higher to win another title.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of bang for your buck when it's the Dubs versus everyone else. However, the NBA Finals matchup - not the winner - is an available prop, and it comes with more attractive prices.

Here are the three matchups we're focussing on.

Warriors vs. Raptors (+450)

Golden State, to no one's surprise, is expected to represent the Western Conference in The Finals. At 41-16 entering the second half, the Warriors are the conference leader, and it feels like they aren't even clicking yet.

The top half of the Eastern Conference, meanwhile, went through an arms race through splashy acquisitions at the trade deadline, and now four teams have realistic shots to win the conference.

The Toronto Raptors currently sit second behind the Milwaukee Bucks, but we don't think the chalk wins out here. The Raptors face the league's easiest second-half schedule, and they have the makeup of a championship-caliber team.

Warriors vs. Celtics (+500)

We'll stick with the Warriors here, but flip the East script to the Boston Celtics.

It was a trying first half for Brad Stevens and Co. Despite being 16 games over .500, the Celtics aren't playing up to expectations. Some players from last season's young playoff core have taken a backseat to the stars, and Gordon Hayward has yet to regain his elite form following a 2017 injury.

The good news is that Boston still hasn't peaked. It's clear the Celtics have potential, star power, and coaching, all key ingredients when projecting what this team could become. A second-half surge should help the Celtics separate from the No. 3-seeded Indiana Pacers, giving Boston the opportunity to start the postseason against an inferior East playoff team.

Rockets vs. Bucks (+4000)

Here's the security blanket in case the Warriors forget how to play basketball and lose in a seven-game series.

The West is ripe with electric teams, but we've seen this song and dance before. The Denver Nuggets are fun but young, and the Oklahoma City Thunder - a team with the toughest schedule in the second half - always seem to flop on the biggest stage. If any team not named the Warriors is equipped for a long playoff run, it's the experienced Houston Rockets.

Houston occupies the No. 5 seed, and when the two teams met in last season's conference finals that went to seven games, the Rockets showed they can hang with Golden State. The way James Harden is playing, coupled with Chris Paul's return, gives Houston a legitimate shot on a nightly basis.

With a bold prediction in the West, we'll keep it simpler in the East and select Milwaukee. After a couple years in the Eastern Conference mix, the Bucks are officially contenders this season. They sit atop the league with a .754 winning percentage, and Milwaukee is outscoring opponents by roughly 10 points per game, which also paces the NBA.

Harden and Giannis battling it out in The Finals? Sign us up.

Alex Kolodziej is theScore's betting writer. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 11 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AlexKoIodziej.

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Best bets for potential NBA Finals matchups
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