NBA Pick: Follow the Sharps & Bet Thunder +3 vs. Warriors

Jason Lake

Thursday, December 18, 2014 12:50 PM GMT

The Golden State Warriors had their winning streak snapped at 16 games on Tuesday. Can the Oklahoma City Thunder win their eighth straight game on Thursday? The NBA odds don’t seem to think so.

Jason’s record as of Dec. 16: 17-16-1 ATS, 1-3 Totals
Nothing lasts forever. The Golden State Warriors had won 16 games in a row, but on Tuesday, they lost 105-98 to the Memphis Grizzlies. And it was expected, too – Golden State was a 3.5-point road dog against the Grizz, who have the second-best record in the NBA behind the Warriors (21-3 SU, 16-8 ATS).

Now Golden State has the chance to play the spoiler role this Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder (12-13 SU, 14-10-1 ATS), who have won eight in a row to pretty much end any concern about missing the playoffs. The Warriors opened as 4-point home favorites on the NBA odds board; as we go to press, the spread has shrunk to three points, with a total of 210. Expect to see plenty of early support for the Thunder when our first consensus reports get published.

 

You Ornery Ol’ Scudder
It’s been three weeks since the last time we got to discuss the Warriors, but it feels like we’ve been singing their praises all year. There have been some recent complications, though. Andrew Bogut (17.3 PER), such an unheralded part of Golden State’s success with an amazing plus-6.6 defensive BPM, has missed the past four games with runner’s knee and won’t play on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET, TNT). The Warriors are 2-2 ATS in his absence.

Golden State could have used Bogut against the Grizzlies. Festus Ezeli (10.2 PER) is starting in his place; Ezeli is a solid rim protector with a plus-2.5 DBPM, but he’s no Bogut. And Marreese Speights (23.5 PER) is weaving all his magic at the offensive end. There isn’t much else in the Big & Tall cupboard with David Lee (19.1 PER last year) still injured and little-used Ognjen Kuzmic sent to the D-League on Wednesday.

 

The Westbrook Conference
Meanwhile, it’s been full steam ahead for the Thunder since Russell Westbrook (34.5 PER) and Kevin Durant (25.5 PER) returned to the lineup. Westbrook in particular has been playing like he should be this year's MVP, dropping 32.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.1 rebounds per 36 minutes. That level of play might not be sustainable – the highest single-season PER ever recorded was 31.8 by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962-63. But for the moment, Westbrook is en fuego.

Durant, however, is still a bit off from last year’s MVP performance (29.8 PER). But don’t put too much stock in those numbers. Durant has to share the ball with Westbrook, and much of last year’s MVP discussion was centered on how Durant carried this team on his back while Westbrook was injured. Besides, what matters is the quality of their play. PER is just a stat, albeit a useful one, and the MVP award is even less reliable as an indicator of performance.

 

Get Low
Before placing your NBA Pick, know there is one relative weakness on this Thunder team: They don’t have the same heft in the paint as the Grizzlies. Steven Adams (13.0 PER) is nasty enough defensively at plus-2.5 DBPM, and Kendrick Perkins (8.1 PER) is still someone you don’t want to mess with at plus-2.8 DBPM. But both men are black holes on offense, as is Nick Collison (8.8 PER, plus-1.8 DBPM). Who’s going to score down low for OKC on Thursday? Maybe Westbrook, who leads the team with 11.4 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes.

Be that as it may, we’re going to have to go with the early-bird sharps and add the Thunder to our basketball picks for Thursday. As a team, they’ve got a little bit more going for them than Golden State with Bogut out of the picture. But it should be an excellent game either way, and we’re looking forward to seeing it unfold.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Thunder at 5Dimes