Our NBA pick here isn’t too difficult. The Toronto Raptors have fallen down, and they can’t get up. The OKC Thunder are 2-3 SU & ATS in their past five games.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 6: 44-40-4 ATS, 4-7 Totals
It’s still too early for the Toronto Raptors to lose complete faith. Yes, they’ve lost seven of their last eight games SU and ATS. And yes, the losing continued Friday night against the Charlotte Hornets (–1 at home), despite Kyle Lowry making his return and scoring 25 points. But the Raptors (38-24 SU, 28-33-1 ATS) are 11.5 games ahead of eighth place in the Eastern Conference as we go to press. They’ve got time to sort things out before the playoffs.
That doesn’t mean we’re too keen on making Toronto our NBA pick for Sunday’s matchup (7:00 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) with the Oklahoma City Thunder. You may have noticed that Russell Westbrook is on fire; he recently strung together four consecutive triple-doubles, and he’s scored at least 40 points in each of his last three games. But the Thunder have only covered twice in their past five outings. Problem? No problem. NBA Odds are favoring them by 6 points in the spread.
It seems like only yesterday we were recommending the UNDER for the Raptors. But that was over a week ago now – ancient history in NBA terms. Lowry (19.4 PER) ended up missing the next three games in order to heal his body and soul, and when he came back, the Raptors pulled James Johnson (18.4 PER) out of the starting lineup. The OVER went 4-0 in those four games.
We’re not entirely convinced that Lowry is back to his All-Star self. Those 25 points were nice, and Lowry did hit five of his nine trey attempts, but he was 9-of-22 on the night, and he was also a minus-11. Let’s give him at least a couple more games before we pass judgment. Instead, let’s shake our collective fist at head coach Dwayne Casey for putting Terrence Ross (11.2 PER) back in the starting five ahead of Johnson, and for not playing Jonas Valanciunas (20.5 PER) at all in the fourth quarter against Charlotte. This will not do.
Meanwhile, let’s profit. We were happy to recommend the UNDER with Lowry losing his shooting touch and Johnson (plus-2.5 DBPM) taking over for Ross (minus-1.6 DBPM) at small forward. Now we have to flip the script. Assuming that his shooting hand has healed, Lowry is the best overall offensive player on the team (plus-4.3 OBPM), although his defense (minus-0.6 DBPM) could still use some work. It is what it is.
Your Russellmania Moment
There isn’t any question about Westbrook (30.0 PER) and his shooting touch. We do need to take a little bit of air out of his recent hot streak, though. Westbrook’s raw numbers are inflated because of the two overtime games the Thunder (34-28 SU, 30-30-2 ATS) played last week, and from all those extra shots he’s taking with Kevin Durant (27.8 PER) out of the lineup. On Friday, Westbrook shot 14-of-32 against the Chicago Bulls to make his 43 points. Oklahoma City lost 108-105 as a 1-point road chalk.
The good news for us is that the OVER still would have gotten paid in both those overtime games had they ended in regulation. Since trading for Enes Kanter (19.6 PER), the OVER is 7-1 for Oklahoma City, including each of the past five games. Kanter has scored 16.8 points per 36 minutes while playing his customary matador defense (minus-0.8 DBPM). That makes Kanter the polar opposite of his predecessor, Kendrick Perkins (7.4 PER, plus-1.8 DBPM).
Sadly, there’s one problem with our cunning plan: Steven Adams (13.7 PER, plus-2.0 DBPM) could make his return Sunday after missing the past month with a broken hand. Adams is listed as questionable after putting in close to a full practice on Saturday. Let’s tread carefully when betting on Raptors vs. Thunder, and may the sphere be with you.
Free NBA Pick: Take the OVER 212.5 at 5Dimes (if Adams doesn’t play)