NBA Picks: Thunder vs. Suns

Joe Catalano

Monday, January 14, 2013 4:46 PM GMT

The Phoenix Suns (13-26) are coming off of a huge 97-81 upset of the Chicago Bulls, but standing in their way tonight is possibly the best team in the NBA, in the Oklahoma City Thunder (29-8). The US Airways Center will be rocking as superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook hit the hardwood.

Tip-off is scheduled for Monday at 9:00 pm ET at the US Airways Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

NBA odds makers must have taken notice of the Suns most recent win. 5 Dimes Sportsbook only has Phoenix as a 5.5 point underdog and the total for the game is 199.

Will this turn into the blowout that most are expecting, or can Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and Marcin Gortat find a way to stop Kevin Durant? Find out how we have decided to place our NBA picks in tonight's matchup.

[gameodds]5/134186/43/us[/gameodds]

Miracles Do Happen!

I know that I sound a bit sarcastic, but for a Phoenix Suns team to come into the United Center and defeat the Chicago Bulls by 16 points is quite amazing.

As I’ve stated many times, the Suns have individual players that are very good, but the team chemistry just isn’t there. Things seemed to mesh together on Saturday as Scola, Gortat, and Dragic all found their shots. If these three players could play well together on a regular basis, the Suns would be a winning team rather than a bottom feeder.

Phoenix’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, as they allow nearly 100 points per contest while there’s a major deficiency on the boards, where they rank 27th in the NBA. How will they be able to stop a Thunder team that’s 2nd in points in the NBA and has players like Kendrick Perkins, Serge Ibaka, and even point guard Russell Westbrook who can clean up on the glass?

An “A” For Effort

He hasn’t been the same player this season from the move from Houston to Phoenix, but Luis Scola can be a very productive player at times with his relentless style of play. In the game against Chicago, it payed off for Scola in the form of 22 points and 7 rebounds. He just hasn’t been able to stay consistent all season.

You don’t know what type of game that you’ll see from Luis Scola, but expect him to play well against the Thunder. This should be a shootout in a high energy atmosphere.

International Support

The Suns will need great support from their two other international stars, Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat. Both Gortat and Dragic’s offensive games have been stuck in neutral lately.

Gortat will give the Suns 10 rebounds per game but it hasn’t been the consistent double-double with a few blocks sprinkled in that he’s given in previous seasons. He’ll need to come up big here, as Serge Ibaka is having the best season of his NBA career.

Dragic will need to revert back to his shooting form that made him a force with the Houston Rockets. Like Luis Scola, the move to Phoenix has been a bumpy one for the native Yugoslavian.

I look for this international bunch to play up to the competition at home as they’re coming back to Phoenix with a momentous victory over Chicago.

2nd Best Player on the Planet

I always give Lebron James the moniker as “the best player on the planet”, but many people in Oklahoma City and around the world might have something to say about that.

With such great size and poise, Kevin Durant is a scoring machine at 28.6 points per game. I have no doubt that Durant could up 40 points per night if he needed t, but given the quality of his teammates, he doesn’t have to. Durant has always been a quiet and unassuming superstar, but when the Thunder pounded the Lakers two games ago, Durant had the look of hunger that I’ve seen on the face of Kobe Bryant so many times.

In his last two games, Durant is averaging 38.5 points, and it’s beast mode time for KD against the Phoenix Suns. With the best point guard in the game in Russell Westbrook on his side, the Suns will be helpless as Durant lights them up for at least 35 points in this game.

Russell Westbrook will need to dust himself off in which he’s coming off of a 5 for 21 shooting performance against Portland. The Thunder still managed the victory and Westbrook still managed 9 assists and 8 rebounds. Don’t expect any lasting effects. It was just one poor shooting night.

Outcome

One game doesn’t make a season. The Thunder are the far superior basketball team at home or on the road. While Phoenix has some solid players on their team, they’re underperforming this season and that’s something that you can’t do against OKC.

NBA Picks: Oklahoma City -5.5