NBA Picks Raptors to cover vs. Thunder

Swinging Johnson

Sunday, December 22, 2013 2:22 PM GMT

The Thunder rolled again last night in San Antonio but now fly back to Okie City to host the Raptors as they look to keep their perfect home record intact. But which side covers in our NBA picks?

Toronto Raptors (10-14 SU, 11-13 ATS)

Rudy Gay got dealt to the Sacramento Kings nearly two weeks ago and since then things have gotten a whole lot better in Raptorville. There is a synergy and a cohesiveness to the offense that was missing with Gay in the lineup. Toronto is last in the league in assists, averaging 18.4 per game but since Gay was banished to Sacramento that number has increased to 22 per game which would put this team in the middle of the pack. They are also shooting a full five percentage points better than they were with Gay. 

But ultimately any deal will be evaluated on wins and losses and if that's the case then the early verdict goes to Toronto. The Raptors are 4-2 since Gay has been out of the lineup (including the DNP the night before the trade) while covering four of six in NBA odds. Last time out of the box was an impressive straight up win in Dallas as 6 ½ point road pups when they outlasted the Mavericks 109-108 in overtime on Friday night. 

Toronto has averaged over seven points per game higher since Gay has been absent and if you think I am being a bit too anti-Gay here (did you see what I did there?) then you're missing the point. I am hammering this Raptor resurgence because they are clearly a different, and seemingly improved, team since Gay left town. Is that enough to beat the best team in basketball tonight? Probably not but can they hang around is the question?

Oklahoma City Thunder (22-4 SU, 15-11 ATS)

Have we run out of superlatives yet for Kevin Durant and the Thunder? All they did last night was dribble into one of the toughest NBA venues and slam their way to a huge 113-100 victory over one of the premier powers in the Western Conference, the San Antonio Spurs. Russell Westbrook was the star of the show with 31 points while reserve guard Reggie Jackson contributed 21 in another solid effort off the bench.

Oklahoma City has won 17 of 18 and is currently sporting the best overall and home record in the league. They sit atop the Western Conference with a 22-4 mark while remaining perfect at home with a 13-0 record. Everything is clicking for the Thunder and they are averaging 110 PPG and holding the opposition to 96 PPG during this winning streak. Therefore, it is no surprise they have covered the number set by sportsbooks in all but two of their nine consecutive victories.

NBA Free Pick:

Okay so we know the Raptors have been improving recently but their chances of derailing the hottest team in basketball in their own house are slim and none - and Slim just left town. Yet can they hang and bang enough with Okie City to back them as double digit underdogs? They are only 3-10 ATS in their last 13 meetings with OKC and a mere 1-7 ATS when playing in Oklahoma City. 

However, Toronto is 7-2 against the number in their last nine road contests. But if you're thinking that the Thunder may be a bit weary after playing last night then know that they are 6-1 ATS in their last seven when playing the last leg of back-to-back games.

But here's the deal boys. As well as the Thunder have been playing don't you think they're going to fly home and come into this game a little flat after destroying their chief competition in the West? Now if Toronto were not playing as well as they have been recently I might take a taste of some Thunder action but I like Toronto's chances of hanging around here. The oddsmakers are giving us a big head start, I say we take it as our NBA pick.

Play Toronto +10 ½ at WilliamHill.com.

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