NBA Pick: NBA Playoff Play of the Day Tuesday

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, May 13, 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 Tuesday.

There could be an inflated total in the pivotal Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday night when the third seeded Los Angeles Clippers (63-30, 25-21 away) pay a visit to the second seeded Oklahoma City Thunder (65-28, 37-10 home) at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, OK at 9:35 ET in a game televised nationally on TNT with the series now tied 2-2.

The posted total at Pinnacle Sports is 212½ for this contest with the current odds on the ‘under’ set at -108.

It looked like the Thunder were well on their way to taking a 3-1 stranglehold of this series and winning their second straight game in Los Angeles in Game 4 on Sunday as they opened up a quick 22-point lead in the first quarter and still led by 16 points with nine minutes remaining in the game. The Clippers then staged a miraculous comeback to prevail 101-99, preventing this Game 5 from being an elimination game in the Thunder’s building.

Aside from the improbable comeback, the 200 points in Game 4 was the lowest point output in a series where the ‘over’ and ‘under’ have split at an identical 2-2. The significance of that is that the defenses of these two teams often get overlooked because they both like to play at fast tempos, often resulting in cosmetically high scoring games. With this pivotal Game 5 now being the biggest game of the season for both teams, look for at least one team to slow the pace a bit.

The Thunder defense has actually been pretty apparent over the last three games, with the Clippers shooting just 43.9 percent over those three contests including 41.9 percent in the win Sunday. That should not come as a total shock though, because while Oklahoma City finished fifth in the league in scoring this season, it also finished third in field goal percentage allowed defensively at 43.6 percent and fifth in defensive efficiency.

Those numbers were not obvious however because the Thunder played at such a fast tempo, ranking ninth in the NBA in pace rating. Also, that defense has been even better here in Chesapeake Arena where the Thunder are allowing an average of 99.3 points per game including playoffs with those home games averaging a combined 206.9 points, about six points less than this posted total.

The Clippers were similar to the Thunder this year in that the Los Angeles pace led to high scoring games, and yet it can play defense when it has to. You see, the Clippers finished fifth in field goal percentage allowed at 44.1 percent and seventh in defensive efficiency, but again, that defense was covered up by the fact that the Clips led the NBA in scoring at 107.9 points per game and ranked seventh in pace rating.

Moreover, the Clippers led the NBA in three-point defense at just 33.2 percent! Even in this series, the Los Angeles defense has been fine in that regard with the Thunder shooting just 32.6 percent from beyond the three-point arc over the first four games. Besides, it should not be surprising that a team coached by Doc Rivers is capable of playing defense.

The bottom line here is that a lofty posted total like this one requires both offenses to perform at a high level to go ‘over’, and we suspect that at least one of these teams tonight will play a bit slower than usual in such a pivotal game, not wanting to be too loose with the basketball.

Besides, the ‘over’ success across these playoffs this year notwithstanding, NBA Playoff basketball is usually about defense and half-court execution, and we expect to start seeing more of both with the playoffs now reaching their latter stages. Look for at least one of these teams to play some defense here, so go ‘under’ the inflated total in Game 5 from Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

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NBA Pick: Clippers, Thunder ‘under’ 212½ (-108)