Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 7:00 AM
The last two games of the Oklahoma City/Los Angeles Clippers NBA Playoff series had to be seen to be believed. And, frankly, everyone who saw them still can’t believe what they saw! A domino effect of poor decision-making led to one team blowing a huge lead in Game Four, and the other blowing a huge lead in Game Five.
Neither team knows “how to win” if they can’t just overwhelm their opponents with talent. Both teams are extremely talented. But, each is stunningly clueless about the fundamentals and “percentage” play when every possession matters. That makes handicapping the series tough if you’re trying to determine a straight up winner. Coin flips of confusion! One could argue that stepping back and just taking the underdog is the easiest way to go. Home court advantage hasn’t mattered much yet. Underdogs are 4-1 ATS.
Let’s see if we can break through the clutter by focusing on the elements that have historically mattered most in playoff basketball.
Oklahoma City 156 two-point baskets
LA Clippers 155 two-point baskets
Both teams love to attack the rim. Both teams can make open jumpers off a double team. Neither team has been able to establish a meaningful edge in terms of field goals inside the arc. No edge to be found there!
EARNING FREE THROWS
Oklahoma City 116 made free throws
LA Clippers 92 made free throws
This is where the Thunder make their hay. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook earn a lot more trips to the line than the stars of the Clippers do. That’s +24 points in only five games…which looms very large when thrillers are so common. This is why OKC has the series lead, and this is why they are likely to win at least one of the last two games in the best-of-seven if it goes the distance.
BEHIND THE ARC
La Clippers 46
Oklahoma City 37
Because of Blake Griffin’s power inside, and Chris Paul’s ability to penetrate, you don’t normally think of the Clippers as a team that “has” to win with three-pointers. In this particular matchup though, that’s truly the case. Obviously if two-pointers are going to be break even, and OKC is going to win free throws, all that’s left for point production is in this category.
Oklahoma City 230
LA Clippers 189
Big edge for the Thunder here, as their team speed helps them chase down long rebounds while the power guys inside cancel each other out. This makes it even more imperative that the Clippers make their three pointers. Missed treys are virtual turnovers because of OKC’s rebounding advantage.
LA Clippers 54
Oklahoma City 75
Turnovers are bad, so the Clippers are on top because they lead the category with a +21 differential. The danger OKC runs into when they attack the basket and try to earn free throws is that they lose the ball too often. This is what’s kept the series from being an OKC rout. It’s three-pointers and turnovers favoring LAC, then rebounding and total point production inside the arc that favors the Thunder.
If these characteristics hold up, the percentages favor OKC advancing. It’s too big a burden to ask a team to make a bunch of treys two games in a row. LAC must do something to change the characteristics of they want to break through with something other than treys. Can they cut back on their fouling? Can they earn more trips to the line themselves?
Let’s see what the market thinks.
Las Vegas Line: LA Clippers by 4.5, total of 212
That’s pretty much in line with what we’ve seen so far in this series. Home court hasn’t meant much…but oddsmakers keep making the home team favorites near five points. That’s why road dogs are 4-1 ATS, and home favorites are 1-4 ATS.
JIM HURLEY has been working closely with his full team of handicapping experts to find the right way to play Thursday’s Game Six. Maybe it’s the total (three of the last four games have stayed Under). Maybe it’s the bounce back spot for the host given OKC’s potential to hold back and save themselves for Game Seven. NETWORK will take the maybe’s out of the mix and find the WINNER!
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