The Thunder have a lead of 1.5 games over the Pelicans for the eighth & final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They’re a 6-point dog on the NBA betting lines as they face the Grizzlies tonight.
The Oklahoma City Thunder Can Win Because…
They are getting tremendous output from Russell Westbrook. Not enough can be said about the extent to which Westbrook has carried the Thunder in the absence of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. The Oklahoma City Thunder (42-33 SU, 37-36-2 ATS) have been without two of their three most important players for many weeks now, and they’re still in playoff position instead of New Orleans. That’s because Westbrook has taken this team on his back. Wednesday against Dallas, Westbrook went off for a triple double with 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Playing with comparatively less support than what he enjoys when he has Durant and Ibaka on the floor, Westbrook is still able to put up big numbers. The 11 rebounds are a reflection of his effort, and the 11 assists show that even though he has a reputation as a ballhog, Westbrook does try to find teammates. He knows he has to if Oklahoma City’s offense is going to work.
One other reason to pick Oklahoma City in this game is that Memphis has struggled against teams currently in playoff positions. The Grizzlies beat the Sacramento Kings the other night, and Sacramento is not in a playoff position. Memphis lost to Cleveland, Golden State, and San Antonio in succession, with a previous win coming against the New York Knicks. It’s been quite a while since the Grizzlies beat a playoff-caliber team.
The Memphis Grizzlies Can Win Because…
They are coming off a game in which they once again looked like a playoff team. The Sacramento Kings are not a special team, but they are a talented team with Rudy Gay. They pushed Memphis hard earlier in the season. Memphis handled Sacramento a lot more easily this time around. The Grizzlies did not allow the Kings to score more than 23 points in any quarter, and they allowed more than 21 points in only one quarter. That’s the kind of defense one expects from Memphis. The Grizzlies limited Sacramento to 5 of 16 shooting from three-point range. They held Sacramento to just under 41 percent field goal shooting. The Grizzlies blocked 11 shots and collected seven steals. They were very active and disruptive on defense, which is how they have to play if they are going to win.
The other main reason to pick Memphis is that Oklahoma City was a complete disaster on defense on Wednesday in a loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Giving up 135 points at home seems pretty bad, but let’s look under the hood to make sure it’s as bad as it sounds. The Thunder allowed the Mavericks to hit 61.5 percent of their shots. That’s incredibly bad defense. The Thunder gave up only four offensive rebounds, but that’s because Dallas didn’t miss many shots. The Mavericks assisted on five of every eight baskets, which is bad for a defense. Dallas also committed only six turnovers, which shows how little pressure Oklahoma City applied.
The NBA odds underdog Thunder are so bad on defense right now that Memphis should be able to score well over 100 points and when the Grizzlies score well over 100 points, they’re going to be hard to beat. Take Memphis with your NBA pick.
NBA Pick: Memphis -6 at 5Dimes