NBA Playoffs Picks: Go 'Under' In Mavericks vs. Thunder Game 1

Matthew Jordan

Thursday, April 14, 2016 11:41 PM GMT

The future of the Oklahoma City franchise is heavily dependent on this year's playoffs and the Thunder host the Mavericks in Game 1 of their Western Conference series Saturday night. OKC is -12 on BetDSI's NBA odds with a total of 209.5 points.

Mavericks Playing New Slow Style
Dallas (42-40) was able to rise up to No. 6 in the Western Conference by winning seven of its final nine games and with injury-ravaged Memphis falling off a cliff at the end of the year; the Grizzlies also finished 42-40 but are the No. 7 and drew the Spurs.

The Mavericks didn't look like a playoff team when they dropped eight of 10 from March 3-27 to fall to 35-38. The team also lost arguably its best all-around player, small forward Chandler Parsons, to a season-ending injury in that stretch. So Coach Rick Carlisle reinvented his team on the fly, from an up-tempo, high-scoring, weak defensive unit to one that plays slow and is much better on D. In that final nine-game stretch, the Mavericks didn't allow 100 points once.

This could be the end of an era in a way for Dallas and its star Dirk Nowitzki. The future Hall of Famer is still a good player but will be 38 in June so he doesn't have much left. And the Mavs could actually go backward next season, especially if Parsons leaves in free agency. This team is caught in the middle without a franchise-type player and not bad enough to get one in the lottery. The Mavs don't even own their 2016 first-round pick as it was sent to Boston in last year's failed Rajon Rondo trade.

There is one injury concern for Dallas here and that's to reserve forward David Lee. He injured the plantar fascia in his right heel in the regular-season finale against the Spurs and will be questionable at best for Game 1. Lee averaged 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 25 games since being picked up from Boston. Guard J.J. Barea missed two of the final three games with a groin injury but will play in Game 1.

Dallas was 45-36-1 against the spread on NBA odds this season and 39-42-1 'over/under.'

Thunder At A Crossroads
Oklahoma City (55-27) has known for a few weeks that it was going to finish third in the regular-season standings behind Golden State and San Antonio, so the Thunder had some uneven performances down the stretch. But they didn't care or didn't play stars Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant in some of those games. So disregard the Thunder losing  three of their final four games and five of their last eight.

Why do I say this postseason will shape OKC's future? Because Durant is of course an impending unrestricted free agent this summer.  Obviously every team will make him an offer. The Washington Wizards are Durant's hometown team and the Wizards already have fired Coach Randy Wittman and reportedly are ready to hire former Thunder coach Scott Brooks specifically to recruit Durant, who was a big fan of Brooks'. If the Thunder are somehow able to reach the NBA Finals, which would mean beating the Spurs in the conference semifinals and surely the record-setting Warriors in the conference finals, it's hard to see Durant go anywhere. But if the Thunder lose this series as heavy favorites or are stomped by the Spurs, then all bets are off.

It's pretty easy for the Thunder: just make sure Westbrook has a triple-double in every game. He had an NBA-high 18 this season --  most in the NBA since Magic Johnson had the same number during the 1981-82 season --  and the Thunder were 18-0 in those games. Westbrook, who will be a free agent after next season, averaged 23.5 points, 10.4 assists and 7.8 rebounds this season. He might be your MVP favorite if Steph Curry wasn't around. Durant also had an MVP-caliber season, averaging  28.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.0 assists to become the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988-89 to average at least 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Durant ended the regular season scoring at least 20 points in 64 straight games. That's the longest streak in the NBA in 25 years.

Quite simply, the Thunder have the best offensive 1-2 punch in basketball. But will Westbrook and Durant get enough help from the likes of Serge Ibaka, Enes Kanter and Dion Waiters? This is not a deep team so if one of Westbrook, Durant or even  Ibaka goes down due to injury, so will the Thunder.

OKC was 37-44-1 ATS on NBA picks this season and 39-43 O/U.

 

Season Series
Oklahoma City swept the  season series 4-0. The first meeting was Nov. 22 in OKC and the Thunder ended Dallas' six-game winning streak with a 117-114 victory. Westbrook had 31 points and 11 assists while Durant sat out. On Jan. 13 in OKC, the Thunder rolled 108-89 as the Mavericks rested their starters in the second of a back-to-back. Westbrook was ejected in the second quarter after a skirmish with Barea. On Jan. 22 in Dallas, the Thunder won 109-106. The Mavs nearly rallied from a 17-point deficit with eight minutes left. And on Feb. 24 in Dallas, the Thunder won 116-103.

 

Betting Analysis
The Thunder will win but take the points. And go 'under' as Carlisle knows his only way to pull the upset is to slow things down as much as possible. The Mavericks are 8-2 ATS in their past 10 road games. The 'under' is 7-2 in the Mavs' past nine overall.  Dallas has covered 19 of its past 27 in OKC. The 'under' is 5-2 in the past seven there. 

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NBA Picks: Under 209
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker