Slip up, or turning point?
We could look at why the Thunder blew a 22-point lead a lot of different ways, but the fact of the matter is, they played better than the Clippers for most of that game and still lost. We could point the blame to a lot of different areas, but the simple fact is, if you re-watch that game, the Thunder still looked like the better team, even in defeat. Now the NBA odds have OKC as a -5 favorite going back home for Game 5, with a total of 212 ½.
One thing about OKC that has impressed me over their last two games against LA is their defense. It’s going underreported, but the Thunder have really stepped up their defense lately, and they seem to have figured out how to frustrate Blake Griffin. The Thunder were doubling Griffin early and often in Game 4, and it led to him turning the ball over, taking bad shots and picking up some questionably bad fouls to force him to sit much of the 2nd half out. It ended up giving him a second wind to help drive the Clippers in the 4th, but it also severely limited the Clippers’ offense.
When the Thunder are making shots, the Clippers have a hard time scoring. A lot of LA’s points rely on easy baskets from Griffin in the post, offensive rebounds, and fast breaks off of misses or turnovers. The Clippers weren’t getting any of that until the very end of the game. If the Thunder don’t turn the ball over and get good shots, they are going to beat LA. As long as they continue to hound Griffin, the Clippers’ offense isn’t diverse enough to counter.
The Sharp Pick
However, I don’t think that means that the Thunder are the play here ATS. They will probably win this game, but -5 is a pretty sharp spread. The total of 212 ½ is almost three points lower than the previous total, but it still looks good for an 'under' wager. After Game 4, two of the last three games in this series have gone 'under' the total, and with the OKC defense figuring out the Clippers, this tied series could continue to be hard-hitting and low scoring.
The defense from LA will be the most crucial element to this total going 'under,' and even though they are on the road, and probably should have lost Game 4, they have new life now that the series is tied again. While they don’t have to stop Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, they do have to slow them down in crunch time. They did a pretty good job of slowing down Westbrook in the final quarter, which I think was one of the reasons they were able to comeback. Westbrook was only 3-9 in the fourth, and he missed two or three bunnies at the rim.
The Clippers employed a unique 4th quarter defense on the Thunder. Gregg Popovich tried to do something similar in the Western Conference Finals a few years ago, but it didn’t work out. Doc Rivers basically told his guys to deny Durant the ball, and just let Westbrook take all of the shots late in the game. Even though Durant was 4-5 in the fourth quarter, down the stretch, the Clippers forced the ball out of his hands, and made Westbrook into the default go-to option. If they can expand that into an entire game, this total is a great 'under' value for your basketball picks.
My Free NBA Pick: Bet 'under' 212 ½.