Jason’s record on his final NBA picks for 2013, up to November 20 inclusive:
It’s Wednesday night as I write this, and the Los Angeles Clippers have just gone through the wringer with the Minnesota Timberwolves, winning 102-98 as 2-point road dogs. It’s a solid performance for the Clips; they improve to 8-4 SU and 7-5 ATS with the victory. But as soon as they get out of the Target Center, they’ll encounter freezing temperatures en route to their flight to Oklahoma City, where L.A. has a date with the Thunder (7-3 SU, 4-6 ATS) Thursday night on TNT. Oklahoma City hasn’t played since Monday. You’re welcome.
NBA odds opened the Thunder as 4.5 point favorites, but early betting action has already pushed that line to 5. The total has also seen some movement, as after opening at 212, most online sportsbooks have since lowered the number to 210.
Scoring in L.A.
The Clippers are definitely fun to look at. They were second in the NBA in offensive efficiency going into Wednesday’s action, scoring 109.0 points per 100 possessions. But the Clippers are also the worst defensive team in the league at 106.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. Let’s see, carry the two… yup, the OVER is 8-4 for L.A. this year, and 4-1 in the last five games.
Scoring is easy when you’ve got scorers on your team. We’re all familiar with the tandem of PG Chris Paul (19.4 points, 12.6 assists per 36 minutes) and PF Blake Griffin (22.1 points, 10.5 rebounds/36), but there’s more where that came from. SG J.J. Redick (20.4 points/36) has been very effective since joining the team in the offseason, and SG Jamal Crawford (22.0 points/36, 44.3 percent from long range) will be in contention for another Sixth Man of the Year award if he keeps this up.
The Adams Family
We’ve already seen the Clippers (–4.5) beat the Thunder 111-103 at the Staples Center (which also happened after a win over the Wolves), but L.A. didn’t have to travel between those games and had a day of rest, as well. Things are different this time. The Clippers have just gotten through battling the massive tag team of PF Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic; now they’ll get a faceful of PF Serge Ibaka and center Kendrick Perkins. Nobody wants that.
The Oklahoma City Thunder also have a particularly ornery back-up center in Steven Adams (9.7 rebounds, 2.4 blocks/36), a New Zealander with Tongan heritage on his mother’s side. His father was in the Royal Navy and had 18 children with five women. One of those children was Valerie Adams, who won the Olympic gold medal in the shot put in both 2008 and 2012. If you meet Steven Adams in the paint, make sure you wear your mouth guard.
Despite all that beef down low, Oklahoma City only ranks No. 12 in defensive efficiency (100.0 points allowed/100), down from No. 3 last year (99.2). That might speak more to the fact that we’re only one month into the season, and people are still getting their shooting legs underneath them. Having said that, the OVER is 87-82 (51.48 percent) as we go to press. The problem may have more to do with Perkins, who’s dragging the Thunder down with his minus-0.1 Win Shares.
The Thunder can also throw veteran center Nick Collison onto the floor, so at least there will be plenty of fouls to go around Thursday night (8:00 p.m. ET). And Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (45.8 percent from the free-throw line) is exactly the guy you want taking those foul shots if you’re an OKC supporter. Griffin (59.5 percent) is struggling from the line, too. It’s easy to see this game degenerating into a sloppy affair with plenty of stoppages. The rested Thunder have the NBA betting value in this situation.NBA Pick: Take the Thunder –5 (–103) at Marathon