Oklahoma City Thunder at San Antonio Spurs -2 (Total: 202.5)
It’s hard to gloat about a win last night in which I covered by only a half-point (that’s why you line shop folks – half the books had the Pacers at -2, the other half at -1.5. It was the difference between a push and a win), but the game did unfold exactly as prescribed. The Pacers finally ran the offense through David West, who was an absolute beast in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 points in the final seven minutes and defending on the final shot attempt to preserve the dramatic comeback win.
It’s a great start to the NBA season, and only gets better tonight with a rematch of the Western Conference Finals. The Spurs return nearly their entire roster intact, while the Thunder will be debuting a new look tonight; namely sans super-sixth man James Harden’s absence. It will be interesting to see how Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb are able to assimilate into an offense where they will not be seeing the ball as much as they were accustomed.
It’s hard not to have the taste of the Thunder dominating San Antonio fresh in your mouth when analyzing this game. However, it is important to keep two things in mind: First, before the Thunder decimated the Spurs in the Playoffs four straight games, they had won 20 basketball games in a row, including the first two against OKC in San Antonio. The second, is that the Spurs are not the youngest team in the league. Those wins were at the end of a long, long season with a worn down Ginobili and Duncan.
I like the Spurs at home tonight. They were the best team in the NBA at home last year and the best team in the Western Conference all season long. They are completely healthy, and very subtly over the last two years have shifted the focus away from Tim Duncan and have become the deepest and most balanced team in the league.
Oklahoma City will miss Harden. I’m not just overreacting to his dazzling 37 point, 11 rebound, 5 assist debut last night for Houston (it was against Detroit), but allowing for the very realistic fact that he was a key component of what they have done the last two seasons. They are going to have significant adjustments getting used to playing with a couple new score-first wing players who are not as good of rebounders and defenders as Harden.
The Thunder will be just fine, and I expect them to emerge as the favorites in the West. But tonight’s game at San Antonio is a tough opener against a team who doesn’t lose too often in this building. I like the Spurs to grab the win tonight, despite being on the back end of a two game stretch (it’s early, legs will be fine).
Free Pick: San Antonio Spurs -2