Trailblazers vs. Thunder Pick NBA – Dec 31st

We split our NBA picks last night, covering the OVER on the Pistons, who continue to go OVER the total at an astounding clip, and missing by ½ point on the Bobcats on the road.  It was another tough half-point loss, but at least we emerged with a split for the night.  The performance of the night though belonged to the Phoenix Suns who went into Los Angles and completely annihilated the Clippers.  Even more impressive, they did on a night where their best player, Eric Bledsoe, had an off-night.  The Suns moved to 19-11 with the win and have progressed WAY past “plucky upstart” and into “legit playoff team” territory.

The NBA is ringing in the New Year with a pretty good slate of games, including a marquee matchup in the evening featuring another team trying to prove it is more “contender” than “good story” – so let’s break down that matchup for tonight’s final pick of 2013.

Today’s Free Pick:

Portland Trailblazers at Oklahoma City Thunder -5.5 (Total: 212.5)

Portland has come to back to earth just a bit after a scorching start to the season.  They have lost three of their last five games, albeit a few of them very good efforts like their one point loss at home to Miami and a tough two-point loss at New Orleans last night.  Perhaps more concerning from a wagering perspective is the fact they have failed to cover in SEVEN straight games.  That’s a fair indication that the wagering public and Vegas perhaps overreacted a bit to the Blazers amazing start.  Perhaps they are simply a good team, but not yet a great one?

Tonight will be a nice indication of where both teams truly stand.  Oklahoma City has won three straight since losing Russell Westbrook, but is it sustainable?  Well, it is if Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb continue to fill in as admirably as they have.  They combined for 38 points on 15 of 22 shooting in their blowout win against a red-hot Rockets team on Sunday.   That might be a bit more than you can expect on a regular basis, but it isn’t unreasonable to think both can flourish playing in the system and opposite of Durant.

Oklahoma City has beaten Portland in seven of their last eight meetings, though they lost by seven earlier this month in Portland.  I think they’ll return the favor tonight at home.  It won’t be a giant blowout like their win over the Rockets, but I think they will cover the five points at home.  Look for a big game by Durant to close the 2013 calendar year with a resounding “we are still the beasts of the West” statement win.

Free Pick:  Oklahoma City Thunder -5.5