NBA Picks for Thunder vs. Lakers

Jason Lake

Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:48 PM GMT

Sunday, Mar. 9, 2014 12:48 PM GMT

If you like scoring, you'll like Sunday's matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams have been pounding the OVER on the NBA odds board.

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to March 7 inclusive:

78-58-1 ATS

20-18 Totals

So much for the idea that Russell Westbrook is harming the Oklahoma City Thunder. Yes, it did take a couple of games for Westbrook to get his groove back after sitting out the past two months. That's to be expected after one get's one's knee scoped. It also shouldn't be surprising that Westbrook (23.7 PER) just had a triple-double against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, and nearly another one Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns.

Having said that, the Thunder (–6 away) did lose 122-108 to Phoenix. That leaves them at 3-2 SU and 2-2-1 ATS in their past five games since the return of Good Russell Westbrook. Apparently they still haven't figured out those defensive issues that have plagued them of late. In which case, we could be in for another shootout on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) when OKC visits the Los Angeles Lakers. The early NBA lines have the Lakers getting 11.5 points with a massive total of 228.5.

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":257870, "sportsbooksIds":[43], "LineTypeId":3, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Caron My Wayward Son

Westbrook may have rediscovered his mojo, but the defensive situation in Oklahoma City (46-16 SU, 34-27-1 ATS) has only gotten worse since the last time we visited. Thabo Sefolosha (11.1 PER), the starting swingman and a highly respected defender, is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a strained calf. Conveniently enough, Sefolosha's injury coincides with the arrival of one James Caron “Tuff Juice” Butler (12.2 PER), who signed with the Thunder after reaching a buyout agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks. Butler's no slouch on defense, but he's no stopper either at age 33.

Not to lay this all at Butler's feet, but he might have been the worst player on the court in both of his Thunder appearances. He scored just two points in 26 minutes against the awful Philadelphia 76ers (+21 away) in a 125-92 victory, which is just about all that kept the game from going OVER the posted total of 219 points. Then Butler found his stroke against Phoenix, finishing with 14 points after sinking four of his eight trey attempts – and Butler was still a team-worst minus-23 as the game sailed OVER the 217-point total. The Suns were 15-of-27 (55.6 percent) from downtown. These things might be related.

2013-14 NBA Championship Betting Futures

Long Distance Runaround

Let's see... who else likes to shoot 3-pointers? You guessed it, it's the Lakers (21-42 SU, 33-29-1 ATS, OVER 37-26). Head coach Mike D'Antoni's old “Seven Seconds or Your Pizza's Free” offense doesn't seem as extreme as it used to, but the Lakers are still running the second-fastest pace in the NBA at 100.4 possessions per game. They're also fourth in 3-point attempts and third in 3-point accuracy (38.3 percent).

D'Antoni's Phoenix teams from the mid-aughts were often ridiculed for giving up so many points per game, even though that was a by-product of how many possessions the Suns ran on offense. Well, this year's Lakers actually do suck on defense. They're No. 26 in the league in defensive efficiency at 107 points allowed per 100 possessions. And that's how you get the OVER becoming so profitable this season while Los Angeles is falling apart at the seams.

Sunday looks like a perfectly good opportunity to pound those NBA lines one more time and take the OVER. A full consensus report has yet to be available as we go to press, but it appears the early betting action is on the OVER, as one would expect. One should note that the OVER is 7-1 in L.A.'s last eight games, including three straight losses where the Lakers gave up at least 132 points. Defense? One does not need no stinkin' defense.

NBA Pick: Take OVER 228 at BetOnline

comment here