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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, May 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM

It’s a shame that Serge Ibaka will miss Oklahoma City’s NBA Western Conference Championship matchup with the San Antonio Spurs. With both teams at full strength, that had the potential to be one of the all-time classics. You what? It still does anyway!

The loss of Ibaka hurts OKC significantly from the perspective of “defense and rebounding wins championships.” He was their best defender and rebounder even though he doesn’t strike you as Bill Russell. The deal is…2014 wasn’t going to be a year where defensive toughness and owning the glass was going to win a title anyway. Miami doesn’t emphasize it. San Antonio plays smart strategic defense but is far from a defensive bully. You CAN win a title this year on offense. Oklahoma City still has enough weaponry to make a serious run at that.

Yesterday we ran Miami/Indiana through our gauntlet of indicator stats. Let’s do the same thing today for Thunder/Spurs. Efficiency data is from the regular season.


Offensive Efficiency

Oklahoma City: 108.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #7 in the NBA)

San Antonio: 108.2 per 100 possessions (ranked #6 in the NBA)

Two elite offenses. San Antonio gets the job done with great ball movement, smart spacing, and shotmaking. Oklahoma City overcomes iffy ball movement and often horrible spacing by flying at the basket to create easy points or free throws. Both teams can make treys. You can see that only one-tenth of one point per 100 possessions separated the two on this side of the floor.


Defensive Efficiency

Oklahoma City: 101.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)

San Antonio: 100.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #4 in the NBA)

It’s close here too! That’s nine-tenths of a point defensively…nine-tenths that will surely disappear without Ibaka on the floor terrorizing shooters and disrupting passing lanes. You can see in the rankings that the Spurs were just one spot better in both categories. This was a virtual dead heat before the Ibaka injury. We’ll see if the OKC bench can find a way to counteract Ibaka’s absence.


Pace Ranking

Oklahoma City: #9

San Antonio: #12

Neither team played racehorse basketball, but both were above average. OKC wants to exploit their advantages in athleticism. The Spurs love easy baskets no matter how they get them. Given that OKC loses defense and rebounding with Ibaka, we may see them try to increase tempo. Keep that in mind if you like betting Over/Unders.


Against the Spread

Oklahoma City: 43-37-2 (7-5-1 in the playoffs)

San Antonio: 45-37 (5-7 in the playoffs)

Quite a turnaround for the Spurs…who went 1-6 ATS vs. Dallas (only covering the series finale) but then 4-1 ATS vs. Portland. You can see that both teams earned profits for their backers during the regular season. That’s high praise because both were known powers who never get any breaks in the line.


Las Vegas Line: San Antonio by 5.5, total of 208.5

The line moved up from San Antonio -4.5 when it was confirmed that Ibaka would be out. San Antonio is seen as the slightly superior team…so OKC will still be favored when they play at home (unless someone else gets hurt too!). It will be interesting to monitor the totals based on the chess match that’s likely to play itself out through early action in this series.

JIM HURLEY took full advantage of the extra off days leading up to this showdown. He’s been able to run round-the-clock computer simulations to anticipate how OKC will perform without Ibaka. He’s also worked closely with his on-site sources to get a read on the team’s most likely plan of attack out of the gate. This is where TEAM HANDICAPPING really pays dividends!

You can purchase the final word for Monday’s opener right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us Monday during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about great rates that take you through the rest of the NBA Playoffs. The upcoming Belmont horse race (or full day at the track) can be included for a nominal fee. We also have combo packages for the NBA and MLB that take you through baseball’s All-Star Break.

We’ll return Tuesday for Game Two of the Miami/Indiana series. Wednesday will bring Game Two from OKC/San Antonio. Thursday and Friday are both dark before a busy Memorial Day weekend. We’ll have special baseball reports on those days. NBA Playoff previews will resume Saturday.

Visit the NOTEBOOK every day for helpful handicapping information. Hook up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS. And, always remember….when championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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