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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:22 PM

Tuesday Night the Oklahoma City Thunder will take the court in the NBA at home against the Toronto Raptors, hoping to even their record at 2-2 for the season. Sports bettors will see this as a “bounce back” spot off a home loss to Atlanta Sunday Night. The big question: do the Thunder have the attitude and energy to bounce?!

There were several distressing developments for Oklahoma City in that loss to Atlanta….

THUNDERSTRUCK

*First, it wasn’t just a loss. Teams lose games all the time. It was a HOME loss as a 9-point favorite! The final score of 104-95 missed Vegas expectation by a whopping 18 points. Oklahoma City’s first loss of the year at San Antonio was nothing to be ashamed of. That game went right down to the wire and landed on the Vegas line. This was something different. This was a decisive loss in a game that wasn’t supposed to be close given OKC’s status as co-favorites to win the tough Western Conference this year.

*There were concerns about Kevin Martin replacing James Harden as the new sixth man for OKC. Well, Martin had a FANTASTIC game! He scored 28 points in 30 minutes, including 6 of 8 from three-point land. Harden is great of course…but he’s not likely to do any better than that in a typical performance. Oklahoma City didn’t lose this one because Martin is a big downgrade from Harden.

*Russell Westbrook was mostly “bad Russell” instead of the explosive talent that we’ve seen so often in recent playoff action. Westbrook was 5 of 18 shooting, and committed four personal fouls. He’s prone to get frustrated when things aren’t going his way. He may be dealing with the challenge of frustration for the foreseeable future given the pressure he’s under to play to a max contract now that Harden left.

*The team as a whole played very sloppy on offense. In fact, Oklahoma City committed an astonishing 20 turnovers in a game that wasn’t particularly fast paced. This is where the loss of Harden does hurt them. He does a very good job of driving and drawing fouls, or driving and passing to open shooters (along with driving and SCORING!). There’s clearly confusion and rustiness in play right now.

*Defense was surprisingly soft, which suggests a lack of intensity and excitement. Atlanta shot 33 of 58 on two-point attempts, which is 57%. Remember…this was on the ROAD as a 9-point underdog against a team that knows how to clamp down on defense when it matters. Oklahoma City’s shellshock is evident on both sides of the floor.

*Finally, This was a tight game through much of the fourth quarter. Those of you who bet a lot of basketball in Las Vegas recognize this type of game as one where the favorite probably isn’t going to get the money…but they’ll find a way to pull out the straight up win in the final minutes. In fact, the exact opposite happened.

Entering Fourth Quarter: Atlanta 75, Oklahoma City 74

4:00 to go in the Game: Atlanta 91, Oklahoma City 89

Final Score: Atlanta 104, Oklahoma City 95

Atlanta won the fourth quarter 29-21, but the bulk of their victory margin came from winning the last four minutes (CRUNCH TIME) by a 13-6 margin.

To sum it all up…Oklahoma City lost outright as a big favorite because they played soft defense, committed way too many turnovers, then fell apart in crunch time. They at least had the look of a team that was reeling in a time of confusion.

Maybe that won’t matter Tuesday Night in a home game against a non-contender from the East. It is likely to matter Thursday Night on the road against the great defense of the Chicago Bulls in a game that will be nationally televised by TNT. Luckily, more “easy” games against non-contenders in the East are up after that with a visit to Detroit and a home game against Cleveland.

It’s very important that handicappers monitor developments with the “new faces in new places” very carefully right out of the gate. Many professional wagerers and handicappers believe November is the easiest month to beat the NBA because Vegas oddsmakers are still buried in football just as college basketball is about to start its own avalanche (college action starts early this year on November 9!). If you find an edge with a team or a situation, you can exploit it through several opportunities.

Along with Oklahoma City, here are some additional storylines you should be following…

NBA STORYLINES

*We’ll talk more about this tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK. Obviously the drama with the Los Angeles Lakers is a developing story as the team tries to figure out how to play better defense, run an efficient offense, and deal with a very poor bench as Steve Nash recovers from an injury.

*The New York Knicks have started out on fire in an Eastern Conference where many contenders have disappointed. Will Carmelo Anthony finally “get it” in terms of what it takes to play championship basketball? Jason Kidd is there to teach him a bunch of tricks he learned in Dallas.

*What’s up with the Denver Nuggets? Many statheads picked them as a legitimate force in the West this year, with at least one group suggesting they’d win the West! This team doesn’t shoot like they used to though, and it’s hard to form chemistry with constant roster churning. Will a home game Tuesday Night help them get back on track?

*Oh we can’t forget about the Houston Rockets! They finally lost a game this past weekend at home vs. Portland in a back-to-back spot. Is this a team that should be an automatic take when fresh against teams who don’t play great defense…but then an automatic fade in fatigue spots? Houston may be a team that never plays an “average” game…which is great for handicappers and horrible for oddsmakers.

*Are there any projected also-rans who are capable of rising up and cashing tickets in the first half of the season? This may be the most important question of all simply because oddsmakers give so little respect to non-marquee teams in this sport. You can literally run off a 22-8 pointspread streak on the right team over the next several weeks just by recognizing meaningful improvement early.

JIM HURLEY has been on top of the NBA so far, and looks to continue taking advantage of soft numbers for weeks to come. You can purchase game day selections right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about our football or basketball programs, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Play it smart and win SEVEN DAYS A WEEK with the best plays on the board from NETWORK!

We’ll be back with you in the SPORTS BETTING NOTEBOOK Wednesday to talk about the surprisingly slow start of the Los Angeles Lakers. They visit Utah Wednesday Night in a game that will surely test them more than the Detroit Pistons did this past Sunday Night. That’s part of a 13-game card that will have oddsmakers’ heads reeling.

Our football stat preview schedule this week:

THURSDAY: Indianapolis at Jacksonville in the NFL (Can Colts make a playoff run?)

FRIDAY: Texas A&M at Alabama (Can “Johnny Football” knock off #1?)

SATURDAY: Prime time TV game to be determined

SUNDAY: Houston at Chicago in the NFL (might be a Super Bowl preview!)

MONDAY: Kansas City at Pittsburgh (are Chiefs tanking for #1 draft pick?)

Read the NOTEBOOK every day so you know what’s really happening in the world of sports. And, sign up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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