Almost any night the Western Conference will have one matchup worth watching and on Monday NBA basketball handicappers and those making picks alike will be dialed in to this conflict.
Oklahoma City is only .500 (16-17-1 ATS) and nobody expects that to last very much longer with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant finally back on the court together.
Golden State has the best record at 26-5 and they rank third against the NBA odds with a 20-10-1 ATS record. The Warriors are the favorites but by less than you might expect does this make Oklahoma City the play for NBA picks?
How Can Oklahoma City climb in the West?
Now that the Thunder has their team back together there is a popular point of view that Oklahoma City is ready to ascend and win its first NBA title.
You really cannot judge the Thunder by any statistical measure because they would not be accurate with Durant’s two injuries, thus, instead speculation is the most meaningful tool in the bag.
Oklahoma City is presently 10th in the Western Conference and to reach 50 wins that would mean finishing 33-15, which is not impossible given the talent this team has, but it is not a foregone conclusion either since they have played 13 of their 30 games against East, giving them fewer opportunities going ahead.
Having 50 victories in the West might only lead to a sixth or seventh seed which means winning every series on the road just to make the Finals, let alone win it all. Also, one of my favorite NBA stats is only one team that did not finish in the top three in their conference has won an NBA championship since 1970.
One aspect that matters tonight is the Thunder’s defense and they are second in field goal percentage defense (42.9%) and a key factor for this contest is their three-point shooting defense, in which they rank third at 31.8 percent.
Golden State Basketball’s Best But Will it be enough Tonight?
On Dec. 18th, Golden State held off Oklahoma City 114-109 as 2.5-point home favorites and had to feel fortunate this happened.
Just before halftime of that contest, Durant sprained his ankle, which was a blessing for Steve Kerr’s Warriors since he had tossed in 30 points in less than 19 minutes on 10 for 13 shooting.
Durant is back to full health coming off of 44 and 34 point games and Kerr understands there is only so much you can do with him.
"The thing you can't do is be soft and let him find rhythm," said Kerr. "You've got to be the aggressor defensively, knowing that he's going to beat you and score his points. But you've got to make him work, at least." Andre Iguodala will draw the majority of the minutes with the shooting forward.
With the Warriors in the top 3 in several defensive metrics, there strategy might be to lock down everyone else and K.D. does what he does. Like the last matchup, Golden State will look to push the ball for more scoring opportunities and out-gun the Thunder.
Betting Odds and Head to Head
Top online sportsbooks opened Golden State at -4.5 and they were quickly taken down to -3.5 on the overnight line with the total settling at 218.
Oklahoma City has won six of the last nine meetings with the Warriors, but is just 1-3 (2-2 ATS in Northern California recently.
The Thunder is making just a quick NorCal junket, heading to Sacramento next for a Wednesday affair. OKC off their win and non-cover against
Washington on Friday is 3-1 and 2-2 ATS with two days and on the road they are just 2-9 and 3-7-1 ATS catching points.
Golden State is in the midst of a nice five-game homestand, in which they won the first two as 18-point favorites over Philadelphia and Minnesota. This will be by far their toughest test with banged up Indiana and Cleveland in next. The Warriors are superlative 6-0 SU and ATS with two days between games.
My initial thought is OKC wants payback and with a complete team, they should be ready. However, I’m not going to overlook the Warriors being 13-1 and 10-4 ATS at the Oracle Arena, which is one of the loudest buildings in the league. I like Golden State’s defensive intensity and will wait for the betting odds number to reach three (which I’m convinced it will) and snap it up!
NBA Basketball Free Pick – Golden State covers