NBA Picks: Take The 'Over' In Clutch Warriors vs. Thunder Match

Saturday, May 28, 2016 1:10 PM GMT

Saturday night in Oklahoma City is the biggest game of this NBA season as the Golden State Warriors look to keep their repeat title hopes. Let's make an NBA pick!

What's At Stake For Warriors?
How well do you remember the 2001 Seattle Mariners? Probably not that well unless you are a fan of the team. I mention them because Seattle won an MLB-record 116 regular-season games that year. But the Mariners didn't even make the World Series, losing to the Yankees in the ALCS (the other team to win 116 games, the 1906 Chicago Cubs, lost in the Fall Classic).

How about the 2007 New England Patriots? They set all kinds of offensive records in becoming the first team to go 16-0 in the regular season and were 18-0 entering the Super Bowl as big favorites against the New York Giants, who of course pulled off the upset.

My point being: history doesn't really remember record-setting regular-season teams unless they win a title -- like the unbeaten 1972 Miami Dolphins did. It's why members of that team still celebrate every year when the last unbeaten NFL team falls. I wonder if members of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls will be popping some champagne on Saturday night if Golden State is eliminated (I happen to know most Bulls fans are rooting against Golden State). Those Bulls held the record of 72 regular-season, wins but they won the title. Of course these Warriors broke that mark with 73 wins, but that will mostly be forgotten with a loss against the Thunder.

 

Bogut Unlikely Big Factor In Game 5 Win
When the Warriors were crushed in Games 3 & 4 in Oklahoma City, it was largely because the Thunder combated Golden State's small-ball "Death Lineup" with a small group of their own where Kevin Durant played power forward and Serge Ibaka was at center. It worked marvelously as the Thunder were quick enough to defend the smaller Warriors while also killing Golden State on the boards.

You knew that Warriors coach Steve Kerr was going to make a change for Thursday's Game 5, which Golden State won 120-111 to keep its season alive. And what Kerr did was essentially ditch the "Death Lineup" for large chunks and use 7-foot center Andrew Bogut the most he has in the playoffs by far. Bogut played 30 minutes -- hadn't topped 17 in this series previously -- and had playoff highs of 14 points (on 7-for-9 shooting) and 15 rebounds to go with two blocks. He arguably was the biggest difference in Game 5. Plus 6-foot-10 Marresse Speights was big off the bench with 14 points and two rebounds in just nine minutes.

Oklahoma City was one of the best rebounding teams in NBA history during the regular season and has been dominating on the boards in the playoffs but finished tied in that category with Golden State in Game 5. So will Thunder coach Billy Donovan ditch his smaller lineup and use Enes Kanter off the bench more in Game 6? He got only six minutes in Game 5 but is a great rebounder.

Another reason the Warriors won was because they got back to their ball-sharing, finishing with 25 assists. They had only 15 in Game 4. Draymond Green also was much better in Game 5 than the previous two games as a return home seemed to fire him up. Green had 11 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and four blocks. He was the worst player on the floor in Games 3-4.

The Thunder have to be feeling pretty confident as they still nearly stole Game 5 despite Kevin Durant hitting just 12-for-31 from the field, Russell Westbrook only 11-for-28 with seven turnovers, and key reserve Dion Waiters 0-for-4 and scoreless. You know those guys will shoot better in their home gym. Plus center Steven Adams was in early foul trouble in Game 5, and home teams tend to get more calls.

"The difference in the game was the fact that they went to the free throw line 34 times. To me, that was something that was very, very difficult to overcome," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Game 5.

I'd be stunned if the Warriors get to the line more than the Thunder in Oklahoma City.  The Thunder were called for eight more fouls in Game 5, with Andre Roberson fouling out. Meanwhile, support players tend to play worse on the road and it was those types of guys who led Golden State to that Game 5 win. On the flip side, OKC's support players did little in Oakland  on Thursday.

The Thunder have never lost a series when leading 3-1 and the Warriors have never won a series when trailing 3-1. OKC is -190 on NBA odds to win the series and Golden State is +165 on NBA picks.

NBA Free Picks: If this series gets back to Oakland, the Warriors are winning it. The Thunder have to know this. I don't see Bogut being such a factor again. Give the points, go 'over.' The Warriors are 0-4 ATS in their past four after a win. The Thunder are 12-3-1 ATS in their past 16 after a loss. The 'over' is 7-2 in the past nine meetings in OKC.

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Free NBA Pick: Over -105
Best Line Offered: at Bovada