NBA Pick: NBA Playoff Play of the Day Thursday

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, May 29, 2014 4:00 AM GMT

Every day during the NBA Playoffs, LT Profits Sports seeks that one single playoff play that has the best chance of cashing. Here is their Playoff Play of the Day Thursday.

Look for the return of Serge Ibaka to continue to make a world of difference Thursday night when his second seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (69-30, 29-20 away) pay a visit to the top seeded San Antonio Spurs (72-26, 40-10 home) for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX at 9:05 ET in a game televised nationally on TNT with the series now tied 2-2

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Oklahoma City as a road underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -107.

We freely admit that we predicted that the Spurs would win this series before it began and they certainly still could, but part our reasoning was because Ibaka was supposed to be out for the season and the Thunder would miss his elite-level defense. Even when he surprisingly came back in Game 3, we were still fairly confident of the Spurs’ chances, not only because they were up 2-0 in the series but also because we did not think Ibaka could play at 100 percent.

Well, despite an obvious limp when running up and down the court, Ibaka has actually performed at close to full strength while keying two home wins by the Thunder that has evened this series at 2-2 and essentially made it a best 2-out-of-3 with San Antonio holding home court advantage. We have especially been impressed with how Ibaka’s reaction time on defense has been spot on, as that is where one would think the injured calf would affect him!

So what can we expect from Ibaka and the Thunder now that they must hit the road for Game 5 after being home his first two games back? Well, although the Spurs had the best record in the NBA this season, the wins by the Thunder the last two games means that Oklahoma City is now 6-0 straight up vs. San Antonio this season when Ibaka is in the lineup, including two wins here in San Antonio during the regular season.

Now, we totally get that the playoffs and regular season are two different animals, but Ibaka’s presence has changed the entire complexion of this series. Remember in the first two games here at the AT&T Center when the Spurs were able to get whatever they wanted in the paint en route to shooting 57.5 percent and 50.0 percent from the field respectively?

Well, after Ibaka returned for Game 3, San Antonio had shot 39.6 percent and 39.8 percent the last two games with neither of those game-outcomes really being in doubt. Sure some of the disparity in the performances of the first two games and the last two games can be attributed to both of these teams having strong home court advantages, but we think that the Ibaka Effect has been just as critical.

Remember that the Spurs outscored the Thunder in the paint by a combined 120-74 over the first two games here at home in Ibaka’s absence, but it was the Thunder that won the paint battle 90-76 in the two games in Oklahoma City, and that was obviously not a coincidence. On top of that, Ibaka has also provided a spark on offense and when you add in the insertion of Reggie Jackson the last two games, the Spurs now have to defend the whole Thunder team again.

That was not the case in the first two games here when San Antonio was basically playing 5-on-2 with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook getting zero support. Thus, we do not see a fifth straight blowout by the home teams in this series tonight as this is now a different Thunder team than the one that showed up the first two games, as this is now one that resembles the Oklahoma City team that swept the Spurs during the regular year.

Now this does not mean that the Spurs cannot win this contest, but after four straight home blowouts, we look for the first close game of this series, a game that may not be decided until the final possessions, making these points worth taking with Oklahoma City in Game 5 Thursday.

[gameodds]5/291361/?r-1=238-92-43-349-192/us[/gameodds]

NBA Pick: Thunder +5 (-107)