The Thunder opened as 2.5-point favorites on NBA odds for Sunday's game with a total of 213.5 for sports bettors.
Coast Time For Thunder?
There are no sure things in sports betting. If there were, I'd be on my yacht with somewhere in the south Pacific instead of writing this story. Yet if you didn't see Oklahoma City's loss in Houston coming on Saturday, then you just aren't paying attention.
The Thunder (40-33-2 ATS, 38-37 O/U at sportsbooks) ended the San Antonio Spurs' 19-game winning streak with a 106-94 home win on Thursday night in a much-hyped game. So hyped that San Antonio's Tim Duncan and Tony Parker basically told Coach Gregg Popovich they didn't want to sit out, which would have been standard for Pop in the second of a back-to-back for his team late in the season (Manu Ginobili did sit).
Thunder All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook doesn't play both games of a back-to-back as he works his way back from knee issues. He was terrific against the Spurs (27 points, six assists) but then sat out against Houston. The Rockets won that one 111-107 despite playing without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley as the Thunder were in letdown mode. Westbrook's backup, Reggie Jackson, played well in his place with 17 points and seven assists. And Kevin Durant had 28 points and 12 rebounds. That's 40 straight games with at least 25 points for Durant, who will win his fourth scoring title and first NBA MVP Award. No player has done 40 straight with at least 25 points since Michael Jordan in 1986-87, although Durant will have to go nearly halfway into next season to catch Wilt Chamberlain's record.
In essence, that loss means the Thunder have little to play for now. They aren't going to catch the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference. They are three ahead of the Clippers in the loss column for the No. 2 seed. While Durant and Westbrook will play in this one, don't be shocked if they get a game off or limited minutes once that No. 2 is clinched.
The Suns Also Rise
Phoenix (49-26-1 ATS, 37-36-3 O/U at sportsbooks) entered play Saturday on the outside of the playoffs looking in, tied with Memphis for the No. 8 spot but losing that tiebreaker. The Suns played with urgency Friday, posting a very impressive 109-93 victory in Portland to end a two-game losing streak. Suns backcourt mates Gerald Green (that trade with Indiana for Green and a 2014 first-round pick for Luis Scola is looking genius right now), Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic combined for 81 points. Green was the first Sun to score at least 30 off the bench in a little more than four years.
Here is the Suns' remaining schedule after this one as they attempt to earn a playoff spot: at New Orleans, at San Antonio (Spurs have little to play for at this point), at Dallas, vs. Memphis and at Sacramento. Those Mavericks and Grizzlies games will be huge.
The teams have split two meetings. Back on Nov. 3 in OKC, the Thunder won 103-96 as 12.5-point favorites on NBA odds. Durant had 33 points and 10 rebounds, while Westbrook had 21 points and seven assists in his first game since tearing knee ligaments in the 2013 playoffs. That he played that early this season was quite a surprise as he had a setback during rehab. On March 6 in Phoenix, the Suns won 128-122 as 6-point dogs at sportsbooks. Green (starting with Bledsoe out injured) had a career-high 41 points, including 25 in the third quarter as the Suns rallied from 16 down. Westbrook had 36 and Durant 34. OKC had won three straight in Phoenix.
NBA free picks: Phoenix +2.5 and the under 213.5 points. Classic case of one team needing it more than the other. The Thunder are 0-4 ATS in their past four road games. The Suns are 10-2 in their past 12 on Sunday. The under is 4-0 in OKC's past four after a loss and in Phoenix's past four after a win.