Philadelphia 76ers (24-21) at Oklahoma City Thunder (29-20)
We snatched up an easy win last night when we backed the Boston Celtics on the road against the Golden State Warriors. Somehow, we managed to get ten points backing the team with the second-best record in the NBA. Yeah, they were playing the team with the best record in the NBA, but still, getting double-digit points backing a team as good as Boston is always going to be the side I want to be on.
Boston jumped out to a lead early on and actually had a double-digit lead for much of the first half. The Warriors went on a run in the third quarter to tighten things up, and the game was a one or two possession game for the entire fourth quarter. The Warriors pulled away late for the 109-105 win, but our cover was secured, getting all those points.
If this is a preview of the NBA Finals we are in for a treat, these two teams are very evenly matched and it was a great game to watch. Today we will break down a matchup of two of the hottest teams in the NBA as the Philadelphia 76ers travel to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder.
The Philadelphia 76ers are red-hot at the moment, winners of ten out of their last thirteen games. They will take that hot streak on the road to play against an even hotter Oklahoma City Thunder team that has won seven straight and hold a 21-8 record since December 1st.
The Thunder are -3.5-point home underdogs. The game total over-under is set at 214 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 3:00 PM PST from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Oklahoma City Thunder made some huge splashes in the off-season when they brought in Paul George and Carmelo Anthony to play with superstar point guard Russell Westbrook. The revamped rotation got off to a slow start as they were 8-12 after the season’s first two months. The Thunder didn’t push the panic button, but there were a lot of concerns about the long-term viability of the Big-3 in OKC.
OKC finally figured out the way to make this thing work, and that was by having Carmelo Anthony defer to Westbrook and George. It isn’t that Carmelo doesn’t get shots, he still takes plenty, but he has started to understand that George and Westbrook are more explosive and letting them have the ball more is better for everyone.
Since they made that little tweak the Thunder are 21-8 and went from out of the playoff picture to a very real threat for a top-four seed and a home series in the first round on the Western Conference playoffs.
The Philadelphia 76ers have been following the process now for seemingly forever. Draft a high-level prospect that is banged up. Let them heal up and lose a bunch of games the next year. Rinse and repeat every year.
They tried to do this again this year as they drafted Markel Fultz as the number one overall pick. Fultz hasn’t played and the 76ers expected to lose a bunch of games again and get another lottery pick next year. The problem is they aren’t losing a bunch of games.
The play of rookies Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid has been amazing as both players are participating in the All-Star weekend festivities. Can you imagine if the Sixers took say, Jaysen Tatum in the first instead of Fultz? This could be a top-three seed type team. It looks like the Sixers are all in on a playoff push and won’t be snatching up another lottery pick in the top three next year.
But it’s about damn time for them to start winning. I for one am glad that Philly is finally competitive, and I love the young core of talent they have built. If Fultz can ever figure out how to shoot again, which he may not, this team could be elite in a hurry. The Sixers are red-hot in the New Year having won seven out of their last nine games. The one caveat to that nice stretch of games? They have played six of those nine games on their home court. They won’t have that luxury tonight when they play one of the best home teams in the league on their home court tonight in OKC.
The only reason this number isn’t OKC -9 is that they played last night in Detroit. That game wasn’t overly tough, as they jumped out to a twelve-point first quarter lead and just coasted the rest of the way to an easy double-digit victory. It was also an early tip that allowed OKC to get on the plane home at a reasonable hour. So, I am going to discount the back to back just a bit as I evaluate this game.
Whenever you have two good teams like this that are both playing well at the moment, you have to find things that could separate the two teams. To me, that is the fact that OKC is elite at home and has some very strong momentum going right now. You just don’t see too many teams snap long winning streaks at home. I expect high energy and a full effort out of OKC tonight.
They might even just blow this game out. The Thunder have put the rest of the Western Conference on notice since December 1st, and they are looking a lot like the team that everyone thought they would be when they brought in George and Anthony in the offseason. I think they win and cover relatively easily tonight at home.
Give me the Oklahoma City Thunder -3.5-points tonight.