Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 14 inclusive:
Check out live NBA Championship Betting Lines
Is it safe to bet on the Oklahoma City Thunder again? After a wayward 4-5 SU and 2-6-1 ATS spell, the Thunder may have righted the ship, beating the Houston Rockets (+4.5) and the Los Angeles Lakers (+16.5) at home in their last two games. Getting that win over L.A. was particularly sweet, after the Lakers upset Oklahoma City (–12 away) last week in front of a national audience on ABC.
The Thunder will have to settle for local cable coverage when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday (7:00 p.m. ET). The Mavs are also coming off a healthy 108-101 victory over the Utah Jazz (+4.5 at home), improving to 3-1 SU and ATS in their last four games, and 12-6 SU and 11-7 ATS since the end of January. The NBA odds board has Dallas getting eight points against the Thunder with a total of 215.5.
Oklahoma Genuine Draft
It’s been a lot of fun fading the Thunder (48-17 SU, 36-28-1 ATS) lately – or at least, it was. They did enough to get the cover in that 106-98 win over Houston; Kevin Durant (30.3 PER) scored 42 points and Russell Westbrook (24.1 PER) added another 24, but it was Steven Adams (10.9 PER) putting OKC over the top with a yeoman effort against Dwight Howard. Adams only scored two points, but he was a plus-7, while Howard was minus-12 after scoring just nine points.
The 131-102 victory over the Lakers wasn’t nearly as competitive, but it did feature another unsung hero. While Durant and Westbrook were scoring 29 points apiece, Andre Roberson (11.5 PER) was getting his first start of 2014 in place of the injured Thabo Sefolosha (11.0 PER), and he responded with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, seven rebounds and a plus-8 in 24 minutes.
If the Thunder are going to keep this up, it’s imperative that Adams and Roberson continue to do their best impersonations of the starters they’re replacing. Adams is in there for the injured Kendrick Perkins (6.1 PER), and the big Kiwi is definitely cut from the same angry cloth as his mentor. Roberson, meanwhile, was the Pac 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the Colorado Buffaloes; Sefolosha, of course, is a noted defensive specialist. Adams (No. 12 overall) and Roberson (No. 26) were Oklahoma City’s first-round draft picks last summer, and they still have some things to work on, but if they can hold the fort, the Thunder can keep on rolling.
We’re an Anarcho-syndicalist Commune
The Mavericks (39-27 SU, 37-39 ATS) don’t have quite the same kind of existential concerns as OKC. They’re more of a loose collection of veterans and the occasional young buck supporting former MVP Dirk Nowitzki (24.0 PER), who’s playing his best basketball in six years. If Dallas does have an identity, it has more to do with owner Mark Cuban’s willingness to spend money, and head coach Rick Carlisle’s steady hand on the tiller.
While it’s nice to see Nowitzki and the Mavericks playing as well as they have, let’s not kid ourselves: This is still not nearly as good a team as the one that won the NBA title just three years ago. And it’s not as good a team as the Thunder. Back in November, Oklahoma City won this matchup 107-93 as a 7-point home chalk on the NBA betting lines. That was with Perkins and Sefolosha in the lineup, and Devin Harris (16.2 PER) had yet to make his season debut for Dallas, but still. Gotta go with precedent in this one.
NBA Pick: Take the Thunder –8 at Heritage