Serge Ibaka won’t be playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder anytime soon. This is great news for the Boston Celtics, who could be the right basketball pick this Wednesday when they hit the Thunderdome.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 16: 51-48-4 ATS, 5-8 Totals, minus-1.00 units ML
Okay, now it’s time for the Oklahoma City Thunder to panic. With only 15 games left to go in the 2014-15 regular season, and with the Thunder clinging to eighth place in the Western Conference as we go to press, word came down the pipes on Tuesday (courtesy of ESPN’s Chris Broussard) that Serge Ibaka was undergoing knee surgery, and is assumed to be out of commission for “a few weeks.”
Yikes. The Thunder (37-30 SU, 33-32-2 ATS) were already scrambling to make the playoffs, although they’ve had some recent success at 2-1 SU and 3-0 ATS in their last three games. Kevin Durant isn’t due back for at least another week, and now Oklahoma City has lost its starting power forward, not to mention one of the best shot-blockers in the league. And look who’s up next on the dance card: the Boston Celtics, who are 5-0 SU and ATS in their last five games. Wednesday’s NBA odds have Boston getting up to 7.5 points on the road. Really? Sweet Hallelujah Jones.
Actually, before we get too carried away here, let’s acknowledge that this three-game mini-streak was accomplished while Ibaka (16.6 PER) was on the sidelines. This has not been Air Congo’s best season in the bigs – far from it. After three quality years in OKC, Ibaka has regressed at both ends of the court. His numbers are down across the board, except in one area: 3-point shooting, where Ibaka’s volume is up substantially to 4.9 attempts per game.
In a vacuum, this isn’t a bad thing in today’s NBA, especially with Ibaka making 37.6 percent of those shots. Decent enough for a big man. But there’s a price to pay on defense, where Ibaka has slipped from plus-2.3 DBPM last year to plus-1.5 DBPM. His block rate has dropped from 6.7 to 5.8 percent, the lowest since his rookie campaign five years ago (5.5 percent), when he was a fresh-faced 20-year-old with zero college experience.
Ibaka has still made a positive contribution this year, but not by all that much at plus-0.9 BPM. In his absence, Enes Kanter (22.0 PER), Steven Adams (13.9 PER) and Mitch McGary (19.3 PER) have taken their turns playing more minutes in the frontcourt. They’ve more than compensated for the loss of Ibaka, at least in the short term.
If only it weren’t the Celtics (30-36 SU, 39-26-1 ATS) coming to town. Boston got off to a very slow start this year at 4-11 SU and 6-9 ATS, and it looked like the tanks were going to come out. But things got better. Rajon Rondo (plus-0.3 BPM) was sent packing in mid-December, and while it hurt at first, Marcus Smart (plus-0.5 BPM) proved to be just as effective soaking up those minutes in relief.
Then Isaiah Thomas (plus-3.1 BPM) came to town. However, the Celtics have won four straight SU and ATS while Thomas is out of the lineup with a sore back. They even took one off the Indiana Pacers (–8.5 at home) Saturday night, much to our chagrin. Phil Pressey (minus-2.1 BPM) has done some good things off the bench with Smart moving into the starting lineup. We’d still rather see Thomas in there, but he’s not even expected to travel with the team to Oklahoma for Wednesday’s contest (8:00 p.m. ET).
So we’ve got a bit of a dilemma on our hands, and not one that’s easily solved by playing the total instead. If you look at the head-to-head matchup, the Thunder are 7-1 SU and ATS in their last eight games against Boston, but that doesn’t really have much to do with these two teams as they are currently constructed. We’d rather take the hotter commodity and the points with our NBA picks for this event.
Free NBA Pick: Take Celtics at Pinnacle