Free NBA Picks for Trail Blazers vs. Thunder

Jason Lake

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 12:19 PM GMT

Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014 12:19 PM GMT

The Portland Trail Blazers just took one on the chin in Houston. Can they bounce back Tuesday night against Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder? The NBA lines don’t think so.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 19 inclusive:

48-37-1 ATS

13-10 Totals

It was nice while it lasted. The Portland Trail Blazers (31-10 SU, 24-17 ATS) had a five-game winning streak going, but they ran into the Houston Rockets (–2) Monday night, and they left The Showroom on the wrong end of a 126-113 final. No shame in that, but Portland won’t have much time to recover before facing the Oklahoma City Thunder (31-10 SU, 23-18 ATS) on Tuesday. The early NBA lines have Oklahoma City favored by 5.5 points with a total of 216.5.

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Mathletes

Before I jump in, a quick follow-up on what I said about math in my last article. If you’re a novice bettor, or your time is simply limited because you have a job and/or a family, then I recommend not worrying about creating your own power rankings and stuff like that. Just piggy-back on the efficiency rankings and focus on finding value with underappreciated teams and players – while fading the hype, of course. But if you’re a committed degenerate who’s trying to be the best in the game, by all means, crunch your own numbers. Take the time to find and exploit every small advantage you can.

Now, back to the situation at hand. We’ve got a Blazers team that’s playing the second of back-to-back road games; it takes about an hour to fly the 400 miles north from Houston to OKC. This is also the fourth game in five days for Portland. Nobody said playing in the NBA was easy. The Blazers run the tenth-fastest offense in the league at 97.9 possessions per game, and Houston is No. 8 (98.1), so they’ve been running up and down the court quite a lot. This is probably a good situation to fade Portland.

We Need to Talk about Kevin

The Thunder run the No. 6-ranked pace in the NBA (98.7), and they were idle on Monday after beating the Sacramento Kings (+8.5 away) 108-93 to cash in for the third game in a row. Kevin Durant (30.5 PER) took another step toward his first MVP award with 30 points, nine assists, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Oh, and he hit three of his five trey attempts. It was Durant’s seventh straight 30-point performance. As they say, get him while he’s hot.

Oklahoma City is still not at full strength without Russell Westbrook (21.4 PER), but the rest of the team is pretty much healthy now. Serge Ibaka (18.6 PER) appears to have recovered from the flu, dumping 20 points on Sacramento, and Steven Adams (13.0 PER) is throwing his considerable weight around after tweaking his ankle earlier this month. It’s imperative that the Thunder don’t lose any more players if they’re going to keep beating the NBA lines.

We Need to Talk about Kevin

Improved depth is one of the reasons the Blazers are doing so well this year, but that depth was tested on Monday when Nicolas Batum (16.7 PER) got whacked across his already-broken finger and had to leave the game. Batum says he needs a new splint and might not be able to play Tuesday if he can’t get things sorted out in time. That would presumably leave Dorell Wright (9.9 PER) to soak up those lost minutes for Portland.

The Blazers have also stayed remarkably healthy this year – if Batum doesn’t play against the Thunder, it will be the first game any of Portland’s five starters has missed all season. The team’s success hasn’t all been smoke and mirrors, but unless all the Blazers have been drinking invincibility juice, you have to figure the regression monsters will get them eventually. And playing when you’re tired is a great way to get injured.

NBA Pick: Take the Thunder –5.5 (–105) at Pinnacle

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