Life just keeps getting worse for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The injury bug is back, and the Thunder will have their hands full Friday night against this year’s most profitable NBA pick, the Atlanta Hawks.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 19: 54-48-4 ATS, 5-8 Totals, minus-1.00 units ML
Now this is just getting ridiculous. On Wednesday, we were happy enough to fade the Oklahoma City Thunder after they lost the services of Serge Ibaka – although this was more a case of following the red-hot Boston Celtics. It worked out fine. The Thunder took a big lead as 6.5-point favorites, but the Celtics earned the matador cover in a 122-118 loss. Score another one for the good guys.
What can Oklahoma City do for an encore? How about losing yet another player to injury? Enes Kanter came up limping at the tail end of the Celtics game; he appears to have sprained his left ankle, and didn’t practice on Thursday. That leaves Kanter questionable to face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday (8:00 p.m. ET). Kevin Durant isn’t quite ready to come back, either. The NBA odds for this matchup are on hold as we go to press, but we might be inclined to get our fade on again, if Kanter isn’t involved.
Let’s rewind for a moment and look at where the Thunder (38-30 SU, 33-33-2 ATS) were going into the Celtics game. Losing Ibaka (16.6 PER, plus-0.9 BPM) wasn’t a good thing for OKC, but with Kanter (22.0 PER, plus-1.5 BPM) playing so well on offense since coming over from the Utah Jazz at the trade deadline, the Thunder were able to cover all three games that Ibaka had missed up to that point.
Now there’s a very good chance that Kanter is out of the mix, too. Oklahoma City still has some bullets in the chamber: Mitch McGary (19.3 PER), for example, has provided 17.0 points and 12.3 rebounds per 36 minutes when called upon. But McGary’s a minus-2.5 BPM thus far. He doesn’t have Kanter’s scoring touch, nor Ibaka’s defensive skills.
It’s the scoring that matters more here. The Thunder have another pair of quality defensive bigs in Steven Adams (14.0 PER, plus-2.0 DBPM) and Nick Collison (11.0 PER, plus-1.4 DBPM). But that’s all that’s left in the cupboard. Kanter is Oklahoma City’s only reliable source for points in the paint; if he’s not out there doing his thing, Russell Westbrook (29.6 PER) is only going to take more shots. And we’ve already seen how detrimental increased volume is to Westbrook’s game. He had 36 points against Boston – on 8-of-26 shooting, with seven turnovers.
Too bad for us the Thunder aren’t running into another hot ATS team like Boston. The Hawks (53-15 SU, 43-24-1 ATS) are on an epic zigzag pattern – if you include pushes – that stretches back 12 games to Feb. 25. As always, we’re not sold on the power of the zigzag, but at least Atlanta’s “due” for an ATS win on Friday.
The bigger takeaway is that the Hawks have run out of value as NBA Picks, either to fade or to follow. They’re still winning basketball games at a tremendous clip: 10 of their last 13. But their depth is in question with Thabo Sefolosha (13.7 PER, plus-2.9 DBPM) and Mike Scott (15.2 PER, plus-0.7 BPM) both on the shelf.
You can add Kyle Korver (14.9 PER, plus-3.3 OBPM) to that list. Korver broke his nose in Sunday’s 91-86 win over the Los Angeles Lakers (+9 at home) and isn’t expected back for at least one more game. That deprives Atlanta of its most potent offensive weapon: the Korver 3, which connects 49.6 percent of the time. Kent Bazemore (9.8 PER, minus-3.2 OBPM) is starting in Korver’s place. That can’t be good for Atlanta’s ATS chances. But surely it can help the UNDER cash in, especially in Kanter doesn’t suit up.
Free NBA Pick: Take the UNDER at 5Dimes (if Kanter doesn’t play)