The Oklahoma City Thunder opened up the season with three wins followed by three losses, but their win last game may have started a new streak as they visit the Wizards on Tuesday.
It has been a streaky season for a team looking to re-establish itself as an elite squad in the Western Conference now that it is at full strength, and hopefully a win last game could mark the beginning of another winning streak that continues Tuesday night when those Oklahoma City Thunder (4-3, 3-4 ATS) venture east into out nation’s capital to pay a visit to the Washington Wizards (3-3, 2-4 ATS) at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC at 7:05 ET on NBA TV.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Oklahoma City as a road favorite for this contest with the current line at -5½ with odds of -111.
New Streak Has Begun?
The Thunder are now fully healthy, which is a position they were rarely in while failing to make the playoffs last season, and yet the have been one of the streakier teams in the league through the early going, winning their first three games and then losing three straight games. They did win their fourth game convincingly 124-103 at home over Phoenix on Sunday though, so perhaps that marked the beginning of another winning streak as the team heads east.
The Wizards meanwhile are 3-3, but they have been the losing NBA picks in three of the last four games following a 2-0 start with the defense not playing nearly as well as the last two seasons, when fine defense propelled Washington back into the playoffs following a long absence. And of course it does not help that Bradley Beal is questionable for this game with a shoulder injury, although Beal himself said that he expects to play.
Durant & Westbrook Together Again
The Thunder are expected to go from also-rans in the playoff chase last year to returning to an elite level this year now that they have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook healthy and playing at the same time, which rarely happened last season when Westbrook missed the beginning of the year while recovering from a torn ACL and then Durant was limited to 27 games by a broken foot. Now, not only are they both back but they are both playing at high levels.
Durant is showing no lingering signs of the broken foot as he enters this day second in the NBA in scoring with his 30.1 points per game, trailing only Stephen Curry (32.4), as KD is shooting 50.3 percent from the field overall including an excellent 42.2 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Furthermore Durant even had 11 rebounds to go along with his 32 points in the win over the Suns on Sunday, and Oklahoma City is almost unbeatable when he is that aggressive.
Of course, it helps to have a sidekick in Westbrook who was nearly the MVP of the league last year while posting monstrous numbers in Durant’s absence, as Russell won the league scoring title with 28.1 points per game while also averaging 8.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds. It may be unreasonable to expect a similar season from Westbrook now that Durant is back, but then again maybe not as he is averaging 26.3 points and 7.0 rebounds so far with his assists up to 10.9!
It should be pointed out that the three Thunder losses so far came to the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls on the road and to the Toronto Raptors at home, and the Wizards have not been in the same category as those three teams.
Defensive Struggles in DC
The Wizards improved defensively two years ago and that improvement continued last season with Washington ranking second in the NBA in field goal percentage against at just 43.3 percent while allowing 97.8 points per game. However, that defense has been invisible this year, particularly while getting blasted in the last two games on the road, first 118-98 at Boston and than 114-99 at Atlanta.
In fact, the Wizards currently rank 26th in the league in points against at an awful 108.0 points per game, and that is after limiting the Orlando Magic to 87 points on opening night, meaning that Washington is allowing an ungodly 112.2 points per game in the last five contests! With lackadaisical defense like that, how is Washington supposed to contend with an Oklahoma City offense ranked second only behind Golden State in scoring with 113.3 points per contest?
If the Wizards do not revert back to their defensive form of the last two years, then they lack the offensive firepower to keep pace with the Thunder, especially if Beal is hindered in any way or, worse yet, out for this game.
When They Turn Bad…
Finally, when the Wizards start to turn bad, they generally stay bad for a while, which is why they are 7-23-1 ATS in their last 31 games following an ATS loss and 8-26-2 ATS in their last 36 after allowing 100 points or more in their previous game.
We expect more of the same here with the Wizards losing their third straight game by a fairly sizable margin to what should be one of the top teams from the stronger Western Conference this season, so give the points on the road with Oklahoma City visiting Washington on Tuesday.
NBA Pick: Thunder -5½ (-111)