Are you willing to bet on the L.A. Clippers being ready to handle the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday afternoon? NBA odds makers are favoring the home team by 4 points.
The Los Angeles Clippers Can Win Because…
Their opponent’s best player is still dealing with a toe injury that has nagged at him for much of the season while also affecting the NBA odds. Kevin Durant just can’t fully shake a toe injury – it has caused him to miss several games in an off-and-on-again manner, and it caused him to miss this past Wednesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. When an athlete is in and out of the lineup the way Durant has been, it can mess with his rhythm and rob him of the fluidity he needs in order to be his best. This is not the only reason the Thunder are 6-4 in their last 10 and are not making the strong playoff push many people thought they would, but it’s certainly one of the reasons. The Thunder, improbably, are still averaging under 100 points per game, something unthinkable for a team with Durant and Russell Westbrook on the roster. The top nine teams in the Western Conference, not to mention 11th-place Denver and 12th-place Sacramento, all score at least 100 points per game. The Thunder being the one team in the West’s top 12 to not be a part of that “100 club” is simply remarkable. Yet, this is what missing Durant for so many games has done to the Oklahoma City offense. The Clippers are 7-3 in their last 10 and have not had to worry about fielding their best five players on the floor every night. This team averages 106.5 points per game heading into a Friday night game in Toronto. The Clippers, though, allow under 100 points per game (99.8) and have a defense that can continue to hold the Thunder’s offense under 100. A 104-98 win for the Clippers would make complete sense relative to what these teams have done throughout the course of the season to this point.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Can Win Because…
They play defense. Even without Durant for so many games, OKC has been able to defend. The Western Conference has so many great offensive teams. Golden State averages over 111 points. Dallas, the Clippers, and Phoenix average over 106. Four other teams in playoff positions average over 100. Yet, Oklahoma City has been able to keep its defensive scoring average under 100 this season. The Thunder also know that they were able to take L.A.’s best shot and still win a best-of-seven series in last year’s playoffs. They know that the Clippers were destroyed on Thursday by Cleveland and on Friday in Toronto, and still have a bench that is currently being affected by a back injury to J.J. Redick, who has been ruled out indefinitely and is very likely to miss this game on Sunday afternoon. The Clippers need perimeter shooting if they want to go all the way. Missing Redick will not help them in that regard.
The injury to Redick seems to be important. It hurts the Clippers’ ability to spread the floor for Chris Paul, and Los Angeles’ no-show against Cleveland on Thursday seemed to back up that line of thought. On top of that, the Clippers have seemingly lost their way with three straight losses and defeats in four of their last five. Now it’ll be their third game in four nights, facing a Thunder team coming off a very stinging home loss. Look for Oklahoma City to rebound and the Clippers to stay down in the dumps. Take OKC with your NBA picks.
NBA Pick: Oklahoma City -4.5 at Bodog