NBA Picks: Thunder Will Beat Spurs In Game 4 & Even Series

Matthew Jordan

Saturday, May 7, 2016 4:00 PM GMT

The playoffs have been rather bland thus far. That can all change if Oklahoma City can beat The Spurs in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series. The Spurs are -1 on the NBA odds.

Westbrook At Fault For Game 3?
The clear story line for Game 4 is whether it's the final home game in the Thunder career of Kevin Durant. ESPN's excellent Zach Lowe posts that it's known around the league that if the Thunder lose this series, especially if it's rather lopsided, then he is more likely to leave as a free agent. Durant wants titles after all, and he probably won't get it staying put in OKC with the Spurs and Warriors positioned to be excellent for years. But if OKC were to win this series, it's more likely than not that Durant signs a two-year extension with an opt-out after one year. That would get him the most money possible with the NBA's new bursting salary cap and allow Durant to tether his future to that of Russell Westbrook's. By the way, the Spurs will be one of the many suitors of Durant this offseason. And the fact that KD isn't one of those guys who craves fame -- most believe Westbrook will land in Los Angeles eventually as he's an L.A. guy and more into the fame things -- might help the small-town Spurs in that regard.

Speaking of Westbrook, he took the blame for the 100-96 home loss in Game 3 on Friday that gave San Antonio a 2-1 series lead and home-court advantage back. Over the final five minutes, the Thunder were outscored 17-11 and Westbrook had two big turnovers. Westbrook was an ugly 10-for-31 from the field and had five turnovers. A whopping 21 of Westbrook's shots were taken on possessions where he started and ended it without passing, the most in the playoffs this season. That's called ball-hogging. Great player, no doubt, but he shouldn't be taking 13 more shots than Durant, who finished with 26 points on 10-for-18 from the field. That's why many believe these two are due for a split -- they both want to be the alpha male.

Durant and Westbrook got little help in Game 3. Serge Ibaka was 5-for-8 for 15 points, but Steven Adams, so good in Game 2, had just two points and one shot attempt. Enes Kanter, usually a force off the bench, had eight points in 19 minutes. A bit odd he didn't play more. Dion Waiters had six points off the bench. Essentially, Game 3 summarized what we all thought about this series: can two stellar players beat a stellar team?

The Thunder are now +635 on NBA odds to win this series. They have about zero percent shot of that if they don't win Game 4.


 

Other Spurs Step Up
As for San Antonio, my concern heading into Game 3 -- I'll admit I took the points and the Thunder -- was that LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't getting enough offensive help. He was very good again on Friday with 24 points (although only 8-for-21 from the field) but finally the other guys stepped up.

Kawhi Leonard had 31 points (game-high 13 in the fourth quarter and he took 14 fewer shots overall than Westbrook did to get to the same points total) and 11 rebounds, and Tony Parker, who had been basically invisible offensively in this series (nine combined points in first two games), had 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists in one of his better games of the year. He hit two free throws with 18.3 seconds left to make the score 98-94, basically clinching the game. Parker moved past Hall of Famer Karl Malone to fifth in league history for the most postseason games with 10 points or more (184). I have to admit, that stat surprises me. The record is 231 by teammate Tim Duncan (who has done very little in this series).

But this was again about defense. One reason why Westbrook took so many shots was that Leonard was draped on Durant, especially in the fourth quarter. KD was 1-for-4 from the field when guarded by Leonard in the fourth and 2-for-2 when guarded by anyone else. OKC, the No. 2 scoring team in the NBA during the season, has yet to reach triple digits in this series.

The Spurs are now -850 on NBA picks to win this series. Know this: teams that won at least 65 regular-season games, as San Antonio did, are 14-0 in best-of-7 series when taking a 2-1 series lead. Under Coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have won 16 of 20 best-of-7 series when leading 2-1.

I'm going 'under.' Maybe I'm naive and am more of an offensive guy than defense, but I believe OKC wins Game 4. Hard to see this good of a team losing twice in a row at home. The playoffs need an interesting series! The Spurs are 3-8 ATS in their past 11 following an ATS win. OKC is 4-0 ATS in its past four after a loss. The 'under' is 5-1 in the past six meetings. 

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Free NBA Pick: Under 198½ -110
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline