For one of tonight's NBA picks, we focus on Oklahoma City, as the Thunder (23-24) host the Orlando Magic (15-35) in what appears to be a mismatch in the Thunder's favor.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8;00 pm ET tonight at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. According to the NBA odds, the Thunder are a 13.5 point betting favorite and the total for the game is listed at 207.5.
When placing your NBA pick on this match, keep in mind that the only advantage that the Magic have is at the center position with the offense and rebounding ability of big man Nikola Vucevic, but will it be enough to contend with the likes of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant?
The Best 1-2 Combination in the Business
Championship teams always have at least 2 superstar level players on their squad to reach the finals. Michael had Scottie, Kobe had Shaq, and KD has Westbrook. Unfortunately for the Thunder, they've had to deal with injuries up until this point and will be lucky just to get into the playoffs as they reside in the number 10 spot in the Western Conference and 4 games behind Phoenix.
In other words, the Thunder have work to do if they want to make the post-season and a game such as tonight is a must win situation. The Thunder still are a tad rusty as they're coming off of an 85-74 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, who have one of the best defenses in the NBA.
Tonight's game, we'll see more points and the Thunder could put this game away by the 3rd quarter as the Magic could be without Victor Oladipo and possess one of the weaker defenses in the league.
Kevin Durant has been hampered by injuries and after missing two games with a toe injury, he was just 5 for 16 from the field for 15 points to go along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists and a dismal 0 of 6 from 3-point range against Memphis. Until Durant can't fully recover from the injuries that he's had to endure this season, the Thunder will be a .500 team.
Serge Ibaka gives the Thunder that defensive prowess that's necessary to win games, but he doesn't have the offensive presence of a Kevin Durant. This was the best player in the league last season and nowadays, he's rarely mentioned. This is a nice game for Durant to get his "foot in the door" as the Thunder pursue a playoff spot.
Prior to the toe injury, KD had a 32 point, 9 assist, and 6 rebound effort against Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in a loss. Durant will definitely benefit from a visit from the Magic tonight as I expect a big game out of him.
The Magic possess what a lot of teams crave and that's a top-flight center in Nikola Vucevic. Unfortunately for them, they have a weak defense and an inconsistent and inexperienced supporting cast.
At 7 foot 260 pounds, Vucevic is an imposing figure around the basket and it's indicative where his numbers are concerned.
In his last 10 games, he's averaging 23.1 points and 12.1 rebounds per game. He'll need to have a big game as Tobias Harris has been stuck in a major slump as of late. Harris, who averages nearly 17 points per game on the season, is averaging 7.7 points per game in his last 3 games and has shot under 30% in his last 5 games. WIth Oladipo out, the Magic would've expected huge production from Harris, but instead he's been an utter disappointment. Elfrid Payton has stepped his game up as of late to compensate for the lack of production in the Magic offense, but it just hasn't been enough to compete with the better teams in the league.
As I stated earlier, look for this game to be a blowout in favor of the Thunder as the Magic won't have an answer for Durant and Westrbook and even Ibaka for that matter.
NBA Pick: Oklahoma City -13.5 at 5 Dimes