It is a light night of NBA action, but don’t mistake a lack of quantity for a lack of quality. Tonight only needs one game in order to be relevant; the highly-anticipated rematch between the Heat and Thunder. And though it sounds nearly impossible, as much as Durant vs. Lebron moves the needle, it is almost overshadowed by a bigger storyline tonight – the return of Russell Westbrook.
The dynamic and somewhat controversial point guard makes his return tonight, and despite the fact the Thunder were actually BETTER with Westbrook in the lineup this season (23-4), you can expect the “will they be worse off now that Westbrook is back?” talk to ramp up if they lose tonight. Because of the meteoric ascension of Kevin Durant to the top of the MVP race when Westbrook sidelined, there is a general perception that Westbrook holds the team back at time. Wins and losses suggest this is in fact, not true. He simply hinders Durant’s scoring stats.
And aside from fantasy owners, that’s not a really big hindrance at all. A healthy Westbrook makes the Thunder the prohibitive favorite to win the West, and likely a Vegas favorite in the Finals. So – lights, camera, action – let’s see what Westbrook has tonight.
Tonight’s Free Pick:
Miami Heat at Oklahoma City Thunder -3
The Heat should have a little extra motivation tonight, after suffering a wide-margin defeat in their last super-hyped meeting in Miami a few weeks ago. However, bet against the Thunder at your own peril. Oklahoma City is 23-3 at home on the season, and many of those wins came without the enigmatic Westbrook.
The money has gone OKC’s direction early; the line has already shrunk 1 to 0.5 points in most books. The fear, I believe, is that Oklahoma City will be a little rusty adapting to the insertion of Westbrook into the lineup. I think there is also the lingering sentiment (as I mentioned in the intro) that people honestly think the Thunder would be better without Westbrook. Which is, of course, nonsense. This team is 23-4 with him in the lineup. That would project to SO far and away the best record in the NBA it is comical. The addition of Westbrook is a good thing, and I think it’ll be a good thing right away.
Oklahoma City is nine games over .500 ATS. Miami is five games under. The Thunder continue to remain a good value laying only three points at home tonight. I hope it is a good game, but I wouldn’t be stunned of OKC covered this game with more ease than expected.