It doesn’t look like Kevin Durant will be joining the Oklahoma City Thunder when they host the New Orleans Pelicans Friday night. The NBA odds are on hold until we know for sure. Is this a good thing?
Jason’s record as of Feb. 4: 30-28-3 ATS, 2-4 Totals
So the Oklahoma City Thunder went to the Big Easy on Wednesday without Kevin Durant. And they beat the New Orleans Pelicans 102-91 as 4-point road dogs. Well, seems like all of OKC’s problems are solved. Maybe they’ll beat New Orleans again this Friday night (8:00 p.m. ET) if Durant doesn’t play, which seems quite likely, although the books are waiting for confirmation before they release their NBA odds.
Seriously, though: Is Durant (27.7 PER) the real reason Oklahoma City is just 25-24 SU and 21-26-2 ATS this year? We keep waiting for the Thunder to get back into the playoff picture in the Western Conference, but it just isn’t happening for them. Let’s take a moment to consider how valuable the reigning MVP truly is.
Take These Broken Wings
First and foremost, let’s point out that the Thunder started the season at 5-12 SU and 9-7-1 ATS while Durant was out with a broken foot. But don’t forget, Russell Westbrook (27.8 PER) also missed 14 of those 17 games with a broken hand. Oklahoma City split the two full games that Westbrook did play sans Durant, SU and ATS.
Then Durant missed another six-game stretch in December with a bum ankle. Westbrook was healthy at the time, and the Thunder went 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS. Now here we are with Durant (toe) sitting out four of the past five games, Westbrook missing none, and Oklahoma City going 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS. Add it all up, and you get: 6-6 SU and 4-8 ATS.
Curious that the Thunder are barely above .500 even with both their superstar players available. But there’s no question that Oklahoma City has been a worse NBA pick without Durant and his colossal plus-5.6 Offensive Box Plus/Minus, on the strength of 27.1 points (with 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists) per 36 minutes.
What happened on Wednesday, then? Westbrook had one of the best games of his career, dumping 45 points on the Pelicans. Serge Ibaka (16.0 PER) had six blocks to go with his 13 points, and reserve SG Anthony Morrow (12.9 PER) led all Zombie Sonics at plus-18 after shooting 6-of-11 for 14 points. Even Kendrick Perkins (minus-5.3 OBPM) contributed on offense with six points and three assists.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans (26-23 SU, 29-20 ATS) shot just 38.9 percent from the floor and 7-of-25 (28 percent) from long range. Ibaka had something to do with that, but this was the Pellies’ game to lose. They had more offensive rebounds (18 to 12), fewer turnovers (10 to 14) and fewer personal fouls (14 to 20). New Orleans just couldn’t put the biscuit in the basket.
Enter the Dragon
Seems the Pelicans could use Jrue Holiday (18.6 PER) right about now. He’s missed the past 12 games with a stress reaction in his right leg, and while New Orleans is 8-4 SU and ATS in those dozen games, all four losses were against teams at .500 or worse. Some bench strength on the perimeter could help take care of that.
Hey, look who’s here: Toney Douglas. The Pellies signed him up on Wednesday after deciding not to give Nate Wolters (3.6 PER) a full-time gig following the expiration of his second 10-day contract. Douglas played well this year in China for the Jiangsu Dragons, so maybe he can take some minutes away from Jimmer Fredette (minus-4.3 BPM). One can only hope. Either way, we’re confident that the Pelicans can keep up their solid play of late and take down the Thunder this time – if Durant does indeed sit out.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Pelicans (if Durant doesn’t play) at Pinnacle