San Antonio Spurs (37-28) at Oklahoma City Thunder (38-29)
We continue to produce NBA winners, as last night we backed the Toronto Raptors against the Houston Rockets. The Rockets had won an NBA best seventeen straight games entering this one, and it took a lot of heart to bet against a team that hot.
But in the end, I saw the value of getting Toronto, the best home team in the NBA, as home underdogs as just being too good to pass up on. The game was a fantastic one that came down to the final few possessions, but in the end, the Raptors held on for the 108-105 win.
It was a playoff type atmosphere in Toronto, and if this is truly a preview of the NBA Finals this year, then we are in for a real treat. We are now 7-1 this week on the NBA picks. We look to make that eight out of nine tonight when we break down the matchup between the San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The San Antonio Spurs are in freefall at the moment and will travel to Oklahoma City Saturday night looking stop the bleeding. The Spurs have lost nine of their last twelve and are at risk of missing the playoffs for the first time in twenty years under head coach Greg Popovich.
The Thunder aren’t in any better of a position as they are barely hanging on to a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Thunder are -4.5-point home favorites tonight. The game total over-under is set at 210 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:30 PM PST from Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Greg Popovich was just a rookie head coach the last time that the San Antonio Spurs missed the playoffs. It was 1996. That was literally a different millennium. The Spurs just don’t miss the playoffs, period. Until now.
I predicted two weeks ago that the Spurs would continue their slide down the Western Conference standings and when all the smoke cleared would end up on the outside looking in come playoff time.
Since then, they have gone 2-7 and now find themselves in a three-way tie with Oklahoma City Thunder and the Minnesota Timberwolves for the 5-7 seeds in the West. They are just a game and a half ahead of the next three teams in the West, Denver, Utah, and the Clippers and with one bad week could find themselves out of the playoff mix.
It doesn’t help that all three of those teams that are chasing the pack in the Western Conference are hot right now, especially the Utah Jazz who have been tearing through the league over the last month or so.
For San Antonio, it has all been about staying healthy. They just can’t keep their best players on the court this year. Superstar Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games this year, and while they keep teasing his return, I doubt we will see him on the court again this season.
Why rush Leonard back to try and sneak into a low seed in the playoffs just to get swept out of them by Golden State or Houston? It just doesn’t make any sense, and you have to think Popovich knows this. The Spurs are also expected to be without big man Pau Gasol tonight as he missed their last game with a shoulder injury and is listed as questionable tonight.
We know why the Spurs can’t win this year, all of their players are hurt. But we have no idea why Oklahoma City can’t win. This was supposed to be a big three in OKC that rivaled the one they had went Durant and Harden still called Oklahoma City home. Instead, we have a team that is barely above .500 and is struggling to make the playoffs in what is a very flat Western Conference this year.
OKC has gone through little stretches where it looks like it might have things figured out, but they always seem to regress back. Right now, they are playing pretty well, they have won six of their last nine games. But the six wins have all come against bad teams.
The three losses? To Golden State, Portland, and Houston. The current top three seeds in the Western Conference. So, while this team might pick up enough wins to sneak into the playoffs, I don’t see them doing much when they get there. They just can’t beat good teams this year.
Luckily for OKC, they don’t have to play a good team tonight. They get to play a Spurs team that is a shell of its former self, playing guys you might not even recognize. The Spurs are bad this year and are playing especially bad at the moment.
And on top of it, they have an absolutely brutal patch of the schedule. The current road trip for San Antonio? They started with a loss to Golden State, now they play Oklahoma City, and then they finish up in Houston against the Rockets. Even if the Spurs had their best team on the floor, this would be a tough stretch of games that they were never going to have a winning record on this road trip.
I don’t think San Antonio just lays down tonight. Popovich is just too good of a coach to allow that to happen. But I also just don’t think they have the manpower on the court tonight to compete with a very talented, if flawed, OKC team. I am going to back what I believe to be the much more talented squad at home tonight.
The Spurs have been atrocious in the fourth quarter this year, and I expect that trend to continue tonight. Give me the Oklahoma City Thunder at home laying -4.5-points.